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The Entertainer

5 Ways to Create and Capture Holiday Memories

The hustle and bustle of this time of year can often mean we spend more time stressing about the festive season than actually enjoying it. Here are some tips for being present, having fun and documenting those special memories.

1. Find local activities.
After many events got cancelled last year, municipalities and businesses are stepping up to offer socially distanced outdoor experiences this season. From mulled wine tastings for the grownups to magical drive-thru light shows for the kids, there’s something for everyone. Check your local paper for listings.

2. Photograph the season.
We tend to reserve all our photo-taking for Christmas Day, but the holiday spirit shines throughout late November and most of December. Whether it’s picking out the perfect evergreen at the tree farm, decorating your home or wrapping presents, be sure to capture all those treasured moments.

3. Transform your to-do list.
There are plenty of tasks you must do, so why not take the ones you’re dreading most and turn them into something fun? For instance, if you have no idea what to buy grandma, try having a friendly competition in the family — whoever has the best suggestion wins a small treat or is relieved from an evening of dish duty. Or, hate baking dessert? Use it as an excuse to sample local bakeries to find a tasty, ready-made pie or cake.

4. Go on a nature walk.
Take a breather from your obligations and re-energize by connecting with nature. Visit your neighbourhood park after a fresh snowfall for a dose of calm. This is also a perfect time to pick up some pinecones and greenery for your décor and take a few pictures that portray the beauty of winter.

5. Embrace candid moments.
Stiff, posed portraits are so outdated. Instead of failing to get everyone together for the perfect group photo, casually snap a few pictures throughout a party to capture what the event was really like. This is especially a good idea for kids, who can rarely sit still when they’re excited.

Whether you’re shooting people or nature, you’ll capture better detail take better photos with the right camera, like a top-rated one from Sony. The brand has a range of high-quality mirrorless cameras, from enthusiast to pro. Look for retailers that price match as they can beat the advertised price from another retailer by 10 percent of the difference.

www.newscanada.com

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The Entertainer

A Spiced and Creamy Holiday Twist for a Classic Cookie

Snickerdoodles are a true classic, with the distinctive crackled top and sweet cinnamon-sugar coating. While this soft and chewy favourite can be enjoyed all year long, why not give it a holiday twist by adding another timeless tradition — the flavour of eggnog?

Spiced Eggnog Snickerdoodles
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Makes: 20 cookies

Ingredients:

Cookies:
• 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
• 1/3 cup granulated sugar
• 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
• 1 large egg, room temperature
• 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
• 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp cream of tartar
• 1/2 tsp baking soda
• 1/4 tsp salt

Topping:
• 2 tbsp granulated sugar
• 1 tbsp PC eggnog spice seasoning blend

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Beat butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a large bowl using an electric hand mixer on medium-high speed until creamy and light in colour, 2 to 3 minutes; alternatively, beat in a bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Beat in egg and vanilla, scraping down side of the bowl as needed. Set aside.

3. Whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Add to butter mixture; beat on low speed just until combined.

4. Stir together sugar and eggnog spice in a small bowl. Scoop cookie dough and roll into balls. Roll balls in sugar mixture to coat.

Nutritional information per cookie: calories 100; fat 5 g; sodium 65 mg; carbohydrates 13 g; dietary fibre 0 g; sugars 8 g; protein 1 g.

www.newscanada.com

Categories
Active Aging

8 Essential Ways to Have a Stress-Free Holiday Season

It’s easy to let the holiday season become a stressful and overwhelming time. There are many pressures to make perfect meals and memories. There is an overwhelming number of activities and obligations. There are many demands on our wallets. Plus, extra time with family members may cause emotional stress.

We often neglect self-care and mental wellness even though we may need it even more than usual during this season. Regular exercise and eating habits go out the window, along with quiet downtime. All this leaves us feeling unhealthy, on edge, and unable to enjoy the holidays we work so hard to make memorable. 

Instead, commit to incorporating self-care into your days this holiday season. Taking care of yourself will help you avoid feeling stressed and be calm and present with your family and friends. Below are eight quiet ways to have a stress-free holiday season. 

Morning Meditation

Beginning your morning with meditation allows you to clear your mind and start your day with intention. When we wake up and start doing tasks or hopping right on our phone, we allow our day to lead us. By meditating first thing each day, we train our minds to be still, and slowing down can enable us to make calmer, wiser decisions about how we want our day to go. 

If you are new to meditation, start with five minutes and build up to more time. Meditation apps can walk you through breathing techniques and help your brain stay focused. These five meditation apps each offer a beginner course.

Gratitude Journal

A gratitude journal is another helpful way to begin the day. Studies show that gratitude and writing down what we are grateful for is good for our health and well-being. This can be as simple as finding a notebook or piece of paper and starting a sentence with, “I am grateful for…”

And if you are running out of ideas or need some inspiration, this article from Positive Psychology provides exercises and prompts.

Exercise

It’s all too easy to let regular exercise routines fall by the wayside during the busy holiday season. However, you will feel better about those extra calories and have more energy for all the additional tasks on your to-do list if you maintain a consistent exercise routine.

Very Well Fitness suggests planning ahead, bringing small equipment with you if you are travelling, and infusing a bit of creativity as strategies for staying active during the holidays. 

Go Out Into Nature

Being outside in nature is linked to decreasing stress and reducing anxiety, and feeling more positive and connected. It may take some extra motivation to get outside during colder, possibly snowy months. But, even a quick walk around the block can have positive impacts. 

Other winter outdoor ideas from Graying with Grace include cooking outside or finding a spa with an outdoor hot tub. 

Photo: AleksandarNakic via gettyimages.com

Maintain Your Downtime

Don’t neglect relaxing hobbies you enjoy—like reading, knitting, or doing puzzles—during the holiday season. Finding time to slow down and do what you enjoy provides needed self-care during the hectic holiday season.

This article, “8 Ways to Find More Time to Read, Even If You’re Super Busy” provides tips for reading more, which you can apply to additional hobbies as well. 

Plan the Next Day

There is usually more to be done during the holiday season. Keeping a list of projects, gifts to purchase or make, and menu items for meal planning will help you stay organized. Each night, think about how much time you have the next day and what you can realistically accomplish. 

Holiday planning guides and checklists like this Best 2021 Christmas Preparation Checklist provide a helpful starting place. Remember to save your lists to update and use for next year!

Wind Down in the Evening

A calming nighttime routine is just as important as a peaceful morning routine. Reading, making a phone call to a good friend, or taking a soothing bath are helpful ways to end your day on a positive and calming note. 

One of the most essential benefits of winding down in the evening is getting set up for a good night’s sleep. How to Build a Better Bedtime Routine for Adults provides some helpful tips.

Say No

The best way to avoid a stressful holiday is to say no as much as possible. Say no to social gatherings you don’t want to go to, no to extra volunteering that will stretch you too thin, no to indulgences that will make you regretful when your credit card bill arrives, and no taking on projects that will take more time and energy than you have. Create time, space, and money for your priorities and own well-being.

It takes planning and a commitment to care for yourself to create a stress-free holiday season.  With these eight ways to incorporate self-care into your holiday season, you will have the energy and mental well-being to enjoy your time with family members and friends.

Categories
The Entertainer

How to Host a Christmas Party Like an Event-Planning Pro

From family get-togethers to office parties to themed Christmas parties, the holidays are about spending time with the ones you love most. Should you become the host or hostess of said party, you may need a few pointers to get you through it. 

Here are eight tips for hosting the perfect Christmas party. 

Party Planning Tips  

  • Choose a theme. Streamline your party planning by choosing a Christmas party theme. Deciding on a theme will not only help guide your menu, activities (such as games, crafts, a photo booth, etc.), and decorations, but it’ll show your guests just how much thought and effort you put into planning the event. Potential traditional holiday party themes include Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, Christmas Character Party, or a Gatsby Christmas. If you’re throwing an online Christmas party, you may want to choose something that’s more interactive, like online holiday bingo or virtual Christmas trivia. 
  • Set a date. There are only four Saturdays in the holiday season, which makes choosing the perfect date for your Christmas party a bit tough. If there are kids on the guest list, you may need to pick a time that’s early enough that they’ll be tucked in by bedtime. Before you decide on a date, take your guests, their priorities, and your vision for the party (such as casual cocktails, office party, family-friendly affair, etc.) into account. 
  • Decide on a location. Throwing a house party is convenient and affordable. However, if you plan on inviting a large number of guests, you may want to consider renting an event space. If you’re on a tight budget and hosting the party at home isn’t an option, look for a free location (such as a local park, community center, or library). To help you decide on a location, think about the number of guests, the food you’ll serve, whether or not there will be alcohol at the party, and the overall atmosphere you’d like to create. If you’re hosting a virtual Christmas party, you’ll need to decide on a “virtual venue.” A few options include Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Group FaceTime.

Photo: svetikd via gettyimages.com

  • Plan the menu and set a budget. After you’ve nailed down the theme, date, and location, you’ll need to plan a menu. If money is tight, consider making the party a potluck or opt for snacks and appetizers instead of a full-on meal. If you’re going the remote route, you could ask everyone to have a packet of cocoa on hand, or you could send out goodie bags ahead of time.  
  • Send an evite. Once you’ve figured out the who, what, when, and where, send out email invites. This way, you’ll be able to bypass the stress of purchasing and mailing customized invitations. Just be sure to give your guests plenty of notice! 

Tips for Hosting an Unforgettable Christmas Party  

  • Create a Christmas party playlist. A party just isn’t a party without music. If you’re having a hard time choosing songs for your playlist, online streaming services like Spotify and Pandora have hundreds of pre-made holiday playlists available. Just pick one, and you’re finished! 
  • Set the mood. For many, the holidays kindle memories of friends and family, favourite dishes, and welcoming smells. Bring these memories to life by filling your home (or the venue) with cozy, seasonal scents. You can do this by making a stovetop of slow-cooker potpourri, decorating with perfumed pine cones or sweet-smelling garland, or lighting a holiday-inspired candle.   
  • Hang some mistletoe. Another affordable way to make your home or venue feel more Christmassy is to hang a sprig or two of mistletoe. You could hang a spring by the front door, above the staircase, or over the dining table. 

Whether you choose to host a virtual Christmas party or an in-person, themed party, these tips are sure to make it an event to remember.

Categories
Women's Health

How to Make Self-Care a Priority This Holiday Season

The holiday season should be about spending time with family, traditions, and giving. 

Often it becomes financially, emotionally, and physically stressful instead. There are many demands on our wallets. We can feel overwhelmed by all the tasks on our to-do lists and pressure to create the “perfect” holiday. Our healthy eating and exercising habits often go out the window and are replaced by overindulging on large meals and baked goodies. At the time when we need self-care the most, we often neglect it.

But this holiday season can be different! Remember that you can’t run on an empty cup and that taking time to destress is the best gift you can give to yourself and your family. Make a plan for incorporating small (but important!) breaks into each day. 

Take Care of Your Health

This year, commit to being mindful of your health during the holidays. It may take extra effort to stick to your healthy habits and not slip 100% into poor ones, but with a bit of focus, you will feel better and more able to enjoy the occasional indulgence. Here are some ideas:

  • Maintain a fitness routine. Even if you need to make adjustments like working out at home instead of a gym or doing shorter workouts, your body will thank you!
  • Eat healthy most of the time. You don’t need to say no to every indulgence offered during the holiday season or yes to everyone either. Maintain primarily healthy eating habits full of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Then make thoughtful decisions about larger meals and sweet treats. Skip the fast food at the mall while shopping, but enjoy a small slice of Aunt Sally’s famous pumpkin pie.
  • Schedule an appointment. One way to keep our health top of mind is to schedule health care appointments during the holiday season. It may be the perfect opportunity with time off of work. Plus, it helps you stay focused on taking care of yourself! 

Photo: wundervisuals via gettyimages.com

 Incorporate Meditation and Mindfulness

If you are not already practicing meditation regularly, the busy holiday season may seem like a strange time to start. However, a few minutes a day can do wonders to relieve the stresses and feelings of overwhelm during this hectic time. Here are some small and quick ways to incorporate meditation and mindfulness into each day:

  • Remember to breathe. At the core of any meditation practice is a focus on your breath. While we naturally breathe in and out without thinking about it, there are many benefits to slowing our breath down and doing it intentionally. It teaches us to be in the present moment and to block out distractions. It connects our brain and body, putting them in sync with each other. Deep breaths in and slow breaths out can relax our body and cleanse it of stale air. 
  • Be present during mindless tasks. If you are too busy to take a break to meditate, simply take opportunities while doing routine tasks. Practice deep breathing or being present while washing dishes, folding laundry, or wrapping presents. Another great time is when you transition from one task to another. Taking these opportunities throughout the day for some deep breaths will help you focus better on the next task, whether it is a work meeting or welcoming your kids home from school. 
  • Unplug. One of the best ways to be present in the joyful holiday moments is to unplug from your work and social media. Make a conscious effort to stay off your screens and connect with the people you love instead. That work email can wait; you deserve a break! 

Pamper Yourself

The holiday season can easily become about doing things for everyone else. If we don’t take time to also care for ourselves, we can feel resentful instead of joyful. Spending small moments of time pampering can make us feel refreshed, keeping our spirits bright all season long. Some simple ideas include:

  • Take a nap. Late nights or early mornings trying to get it all done can catch up on us. Indulging in a midday or weekend nap can be just the right thing to catch up on some zzzs and rejuvenate yourself. 
  • Reading. Taking time to snuggle up with a good book and travel to another world is the perfect retreat for many people. 
  • Bath. A hot bath with candles and music or a soothing podcast can be a wonderful way to unwind, relax, and slow down.
  • Nails, hair, massage. Schedule an appointment for your favourite pampering activity, such as a pedicure, haircut, or massage right when you know the holiday activities will be ramping up. 

So how about it? Will you commit to incorporating self-care into your daily routines this holiday season? Imagine how much better you will feel and how you can be a positive role model for all your stressed-out friends and family members!

Categories
Home Sweet Home

Stand Out With These Unique Holiday Decorating Ideas

Celebrate the holidays in style! These holiday decorations are classy yet bold and are sure to bring out the “ooos” and “ahhhs,” and maybe even a round of applause! 

Thinking beyond the traditional reds and greens and trying new colours will help you stand out. Plus, you can surprise your family with decorations in the most unexpected places in your home. These unique and warmly wonderful decorations are sure to catch the attention of even the most discriminating holiday elves.

Let it Snow

No matter where you live, cascading Christmas lights will be the centrepiece of your front yard. Most options have LED lights that turn on and off in sequence, creating the illusion of falling snow. You can connect strings of lights together, and many options are waterproof for outdoor use. That way, you can also use them on your patio or in your garden.  

You don’t need a big budget to have some of the best decorations on the block! These Do It Yourself Christmas Light Balls in multiple sizes and colours are replicas of balls seen at the Chicago Botanical Gardens. Made from a little wire and LED lights, the balls look amazing when randomly scattered across your lawn, with or without snow! 

Magical Memories 

Giant outdoor ornaments will delight guests of all ages! Festive, fun, and larger than life, most options have a flat base for sturdy positioning on your front porch. No one will be able to walk past giant, life-size ornaments without taking a second look. Plus, they make an excellent backdrop for family photos. 

Nothing is more awe-inspiring than a shooting star. This two-foot Shooting Star Christmas Light has a 20-foot tail illuminated by 400 clear mini lights. The tail has five separate strands of lights, creating the illusion of motion. Create some magic by hanging between two trees. 

Create a cozy spot for reading a holiday classic in your window seat with a gauzy drape strung with LED lights. 

Trim the … Stairs?! 

Many garlands available are prelit and can be mounted on your staircase without requiring extension cords or proximity to an outlet. They often come with white LED lights, berry clusters, pinecones, and red velvet bows. Some options are even equipped with a timer that turns the lights on at the same time every day!

Self-adhesive stair stickers are fun for everyone! Just peel and stick! You can find these at many retailers and choose one of several designs, including snowmen, Santa, trees, and reindeer. You are sure to garner a smile every trip upstairs!

Photo: imaginima via gettyimages.com

Trimming the Tree Extraordinarily

Make your tree stunningly blue-tiful! Choose blue holiday lights instead of the usual red, green, or white. You can also look for different shapes such as balls, finials, onions, ginger jars, and teardrops, plus a mix of glossy, matte, and translucent finishes. 

You might also want to go with pink or purple lights or ornaments for an even more stand-out look!

Hold onto precious memories of your children with a handmade keepsake ornament. Easy and fun to make, many options allow you to preserve your child’s handprint on a holiday-themed ornament. They are sure to become life-long family treasures!

Holiday Love in the Least Likely Places

Decorate your table with holiday-themed table runners and placemats. Many options on the market include all your holiday favourites, including Santas, reindeers, snowmen, and more. 

Even your bathroom can get into the spirit with things like holiday-scented candles, decorative towels and soap dishes, or even a Christmas-y shower curtain!   

Mantles with Flair

Transform the lanterns you already have into magical holiday decorations for your mantle. Fill your vintage lanterns with pinecones, candles, greens, and even your child’s drawing of Santa or a pretty holiday card. 

You can also add flameless wax candles of all colours, shapes, and sizes to create a warm glow with a faux flame that mimics the light of a real candle.  

Now that you’ve added some fun, unique, and creative decorations to your collection, you are ready to start decorating. Put on some festive music, pour yourself some hot chocolate or a favourite coffee drink, and let the spirit of the holidays begin!

Categories
The Entertainer

Swap the Figgy Pudding with These Heavenly Holiday Appetizers

‘Tis the season! As the weather gets colder, gift shopping begins, and Mariah Carey takes over the radio, you know that it’s finally the holiday season. 

Whether you’re hosting a party or want to impress your loved ones with a tasty appetizer they’re sure to love, this is the perfect master list of delicious fan favourites. From sweet to savoury to 19+, these recipes are perfect for sharing with your holiday guests. 

Cranberry Brie Bites

This classy, upscale holiday appetizer will leave your guests begging for more. The recipe is easy to make and beginner-friendly with a quick 35 minute completion time and a yield of 24. This recipe tends to be a fan favourite, with reviewers on Delish loving the cross between the sour-sweet flavour of the cranberry mixed with the savoury brie. Overall, this recipe boasts a 4.7-star rating with over 420 reviews—it’s guaranteed to satisfy your holiday hankerings!

Pull-Apart Christmas Tree

Anything shaped like a Christmas tree is likely to bring up the holiday spirit! If you’re a fan of classic cheesy bread, this has the perfect celebration twist. The flavours of garlic, mozzarella, and dough make it a hit for all audiences with very little effort. Mix it with a side of marinara and serve! One serving yields 8, but you can easily double it. Its preparation time is 20 minutes, followed by a 20-minute cooking period. Plus, this easy-to-eat appetizer is perfect for serving at larger family celebrations!

Cheddar Holly Crackers

If you’re looking to impress your guests with an aesthetic and delicious appetizer, these cheddar holly crackers are perfect for your get-together. The crackers are perfect passing-by snacks, and they are sure to be popular with the younger members of your holiday celebration. The recipe takes 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete and yields 4 dozen cheddar crackers. Plus, you can make them into any shape you desire, from snowmen to presents and trees.

Photo: courtneyk via gettyimages.com

Hot Toddy with Charred Oranges

Say, what’s in this drink? Even if it’s cold outside for your holiday celebration, warm your guests up with a smoky, festive mix between roasted citrus and bourbon. You’ll feel sophisticated and classy presenting and drinking this delicious concoction by the fire. Truly, this drink will be the talk of the evening. 

Pimiento Cheese Deviled Eggs

This recipe provides the perfect twist on a classically festive holiday dish. The cheese adds a rich, silky quality to the deviled eggs and a punch of savoury flavour. These are easy to serve and share with as many guests as you’d like. Plus, they are relatively cheap to buy and easy to make. The recipe yields 12 eggs and takes a total of 40 minutes to complete. Add some roasted red pepper seasoning to top off the eggs and to give them a festive flavour and decorative colour pop. 

Healthy Christmas Hummus Wreath

When it comes to appetizers, dips and sauces are always a go-to staple for the evening—so why not make it festive and healthy? This gorgeous (and delicious) recipe from Two Healthy Kitchens has simple, easy-to-use ingredients that will make this recipe a staple for holiday hosting. The recipe produces one serving platter and is ready for guests in less than 30 minutes. Not only is it quick, easy, gluten-free, and vegetarian, it also sports a 4.6-star rating among the community of holiday hostesses. Add some nutrition (and decoration!) to spread your celebration into a success!

Whether you’re looking for fun, festive, unique, or stand-out, you’re sure to wow your loved ones with any one of these tasty appetizer recipes. Enjoy!

Categories
The Entertainer

10 DIY Décor Ideas for Your Holiday Home

So much of the joy from the holiday season comes from entertaining. When hosting, filling your home with exciting and colourful decorations is a must. 

Rather than buying everything pre-made, consider rounding out your décor collection with some DIY items that highlight your style and use items you may already have at home! Your guests will be impressed, and your home will have a unique and memorable look. Here are a few ideas to inspire your homemade decoration dreams.

Festive Garlands

One of the easiest ways to brighten up your home for the holiday season is to use garlands in every room. With so many different styles to choose from, your garland selection can highlight your personal style and give your guests something interesting to admire. 

This paint chip garland idea is an easy and inexpensive way to incorporate bright colours into your decorations. Cut the paint chips into whatever shapes you’d like before you string them together! For a different aesthetic, highlighting citrus fruits as part of your décor is a great way to incorporate cozy holiday smells into your decorating. This dried fruit garland is a wonderful weekend project and uses ingredients you likely already have in the pantry. If you’d like to use greenery too, try this style that’s simple and elegant.

Photo: Amax Photo via gettyimages.com

Snowflakes and Snowmen

If you’d like a winter theme full of wonder and whimsy, opt for decorations that include lots of snowflakes, snowmen, and white/blue/silver combinations. These fun snowmen are a great decoration for anywhere the kids are likely to congregate. Since they use clear glass balls and Mason jars as the base, you can easily make several from dollar store items. Cluster a few together and vary their scarves for a fun snowperson family! As a more neutral decoration, painted snowflake jars are perfect for adorning shelves, countertops, and coffee tables. Pair these jars with winter décors, such as cozy pillows and throws, to make your home a winter wonderland.

Elegant and Bold Centerpieces

If you want to get your guests’ attention, then focus on a memorable centrepiece for your holiday table. Pull out all the stops with these gold glittered vases made from Mason jars. You can use gold as suggested or opt for silver or champagne to match a different décor scheme. Filling the jars is half the fun, too—evergreen and flower stems are beautiful, while candy canes and lollipops signal a fun-filled party! If you’d like to put water in the jars and then top with floating cranberries, leave the top half of the jars unpainted (or frost with a light dusting of glitter). For a fun alternative, make a snowman hat centrepiece that uses an upcycled coffee can as the base. You can decorate the hat with faux or real flowers to match the rest of your décor.

Candles and Lights

One of the most prominent decorations during the holiday season is lighting—from candles to string lights, a warm glow adds depth and comfort to a room. These wooden tree sconces not only provide an interesting background for the candles, but they’re big enough that you don’t have to worry about placing multiples together for an impact. You could even decorate the wooden trees with paint or glitter for a bolder look. For another rustic option, try these stencilled burlap candle holders. Choose silhouettes that match your style, including snowflakes, for something you can leave out all winter! If small candle holders aren’t filling up your space, decorate an inexpensive lantern using various stems and bows, then place an LED candle inside.

Any of these DIY decorations will add a meaningful touch to your home that friends and family alike will remember for years to come.