Goodbye 2017

goodbye-2017

Goodbye 2017

Well, it’s been a fun year but we’ve got to say goodbye. Christmas may not be over yet, but 2017 will be at midnight tonight. Why not party down while the clock ticks away?

If you like the excitement of a Times Square ball drop party without the crowd, police checkpoints and freezing temperatures, you can watch the whole thing starting at 5PM Eastern at the official site of Times Square!

New Year’s Eve Party Ideas

If you’re entertaining for family and friends tonight, you’ve got a lot of options for a marvelous year-end wingding. You’re going to want to determine if you’re planning to have a supper or just appetizers and drinks. If you’re having a supper, are you providing all the food or are you having a potluck? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

If you’re planning to have a supper, then your appetizer count should be about 4-5 per guest. If you’re just doing finger foods and drinks, you’re going to want to allow for at least 12-15 per guest. With a sit-down option, you can provide appetizers that can be eaten with a fork. If it’s a standing mingle, you’ll need to stick to finger foods. Likewise, if you’re having a formal get-together you’re going to want to avoid sticky or heavily sauced items that can get on nice dresses and suits. If you’re having a casual affair, messy snacks are perfectly appropriate but be sure to provide a lot of napkins so they won’t be tempted to wipe fingers on your furniture.

Another key point for a wonderful party is providing a variety of drinks. Providing both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks is key. New Year’s Eve is commonly associated with excessive drinking, but keep the kids and the designated drivers in mind. Cocktails and mocktails can be prepared to give a broad selection of flavor profiles. Mocktails are the non-alcoholic versions of their spiked counterparts. Pina Coladas, Margaritas and Daiquiris can be just as delicious without the booze but be sure to make it obvious which is which so the designated drivers and teetotalers don’t get an unfortunate surprise.

Holding a potluck dinner is a great way for family and friends to bond as the year draws to a close. Guests can bring their favorite foods to share with everyone and create an awesome year-end feast. This kind of comfort food can serve as a marvelous backdrop to a happy gathering. It also takes a lot of the stress off of the hosts both financially and in consideration of time and preparation.

However, if you insist on being the hostess with the mostest, you might opt to prepare all the food for the feast. If you are a hardcore foodie, this might be therapy for you. Some people absolutely love cooking and preparing food for others and this can be an excellent expression of your fondness for your guests. If you’re just a masochistic control freak, this could lead to a lot of stress just before the end of the year. Be kind to yourself. If you love cooking for your loved ones, by all means, go for it. If you’re just feeling like you need to pull out all the stops to keep up with the Joneses, do yourself and your guests a favor and just don’t. You should be getting together to have fun as you wrap up the year. Getting stressed out of your brain is going to make you an awful host and the butt of a lot of jokes in the coming weeks.

When it comes right down to it, as long as you are with your favorite people on this final night of the year it doesn’t much matter what you prepare to eat and drink. Dollar store soda and generic chips & dip are going to be just as memorable as a five-course meal and exotic cocktails if you’re having fun. What really matters is ringing in the new year with your loved ones. End the year on a high note and don’t stress about the victuals.

Five, four, three, two, one… Happy New Year!

Gift Ideas – Wine and Cheese

Gift Ideas – Wine and Cheese

Wine and cheese pairings make wonderful Christmas gifts for friends, family and acquaintances. wine grapesYou definitely want to make sure that the recipient drinks wine, because not everyone enjoys an alcoholic beverage. But if they do, there are some fantastic choices for you to send them.

One of the premiere brands to consider in this realm is Wine.com – and those selections can even be ordered on Amazon, too – where many of them have free Super Saver shipping.

For example, the Bordeaux Style Gift Set with Scharffen Berger Chocolate & 2 Wine Glasses from Madsen Family Cellars with a bottle each of their Gold Medal Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot provides two stemless wine glasses and a bar of gourmet Scharffen Berger Chocolate.

cheeseThen there’s the Raspberry Chocolate Wine Gift Set by Westport Winery which includes a bottle of their raspberry chocolate dessert wine “Red Sky at Night”, a pair of Westport Winery cordial glasses and box of five raspberry velvet chocolate truffles.

A mouth-watering option is the medium sized Savory Sophisticated Gourmet Food Basket with Caviar by Art of Appreciation Gift Baskets with Fine Black Capelin Caviar and a variety of crackers, cookies, pretzels, nuts, dips and sauces in a simple, willow basket adorned with ivy vines.

wine glass

The Italian Classic Gift Basket by igourmet contains a stunning array of cheeses, olive oil, Balsamic vinegar and more items produced in Italy that are attractively packaged in a dark stained wood planter. This gift basket contains cheeses that would pair well with some of your favorite wines.

A wonderful package of Christmas themed wines is the Season’s Greetings Christmas Wines Mixed Pack. It’s a festive collection of Moscato, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, White Zinfandel and Riesling wines that would pair well with a number of the gift baskets mentioned here.

For instance, a lovely gift basket that would pair nicely with the seasonal wine collection above is the Well Stocked Gourmet Basket with Smoked Salmon by Art of Appreciation Gift Baskets. It is a generous and impressive helping of the good life with an oval willow basket filled with everyone’s favorite gourmet chocolates, confections, and sophisticated snacks.
wine escape

With a classic assortment of savory snacks and sweet holiday treats, there will be something for everyone as friends and family gather around to enjoy in the Holiday Greetings Christmas Gourmet Food Gift Basket by Art of Appreciation Gift Baskets. There are a variety of sweet and savory items assembled in a red and gold stamped tin basket to delight that special someone on your gift giving list.

The North Coast Tasting Flight Wine Mixed Pack from the William Hill Estate Winery provides a Red Blend, a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, a North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon, a Napa Valley Chardonnay, a North Coast Chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc to please the palate of friends and family.

wine and cheese The Happy Holidays gift basket by Wine Country Gift Baskets is a wonderful treat to pair with your favorite wine. With festive favorites like Walkers shortbread Scottie Dogs, peppermint candy, butterscotch, milk and dark chocolate, hot cocoa and more, it’s sure to please the most discerning connoisseurs on your shopping list.

Finally, the Let It Snow gift box by the Seattle Gift Basket Company is fun and festive. It contains cashews, sausage, a Chocolate Espresso Bar, dark chocolate blueberries, Lindt Truffles and something that my family and I enjoy in lieu of champagne for special events, Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider. If you want something that seems like champagne but that you can share with the kids for a holiday toast, Martinelli’s provides a variety of sparkling fruit juices to fit the bill.

Gift Idea – Special Diet

Gift Idea – Special Dietno no no

At Christmastime, a lot of us take for granted that cookies, pies and cakes are going to be on the menu for the duration. Unfortunately, not all of us are
in a position to enjoy the traditional treats that so many of us enjoy, but as the angels say “Fear Not” because there are fun alternatives for those with special dietary concerns.

Gluten Free

Do you have a loved one or special friend on your Christmas list who is on a Gluten free diet? There are many people going on this now, even though it was originally used as a treatment for Celiac Disease. Now, people are using it as a way to treat autism, to lose weight, and to ease digestive discomfort.

gluten freeLuckily, there are many gluten-free food gifts you can buy online. The Gifting Group makes a Gluten Free Gourmet Festive Twig Gift Basket with Cheese Knife that’s packed with olive oil sea salt crackers, cashews, olives, Busseto salami and Napa Valley Whole Grain Mustard – all free of gluten for that special someone in your life!

Then there’s the Holiday Delight Gluten Free Gift Tower by Gluten Free Palace. This gift includes chocolate chip biscotti, raspberry linzer cookies, black and white cookies, packages of dried fruit, pocorners and jelly bellies that are not only gluten free but are also certified kosher!

Know someone who has a sweet tooth but can’t eat gluten? Try the Gluten Free Cookies Gallon by Apple Cookie & Chocolate Company. This gift is a 1-gallon can filled with delicious fresh baked gluten free chocolate chip cookies. When the mini crunchy cookies are gone the can turns into a coin bank.

Another idea is to make a gift basket on your own! You can find lots of gluten free baking items online or in local grocery stores, and package them into a basket that you buy at an arts and crafts store.

Sugar Free

The holidays can be hard on those who are on a strict sugar-free diet. Whether they’re diabetic or just giving up sugar for some other reason, you can give a Christmas gift that satisfies their sweet tooth.

The Gift Basket Dropshipping company makes the Simply Sugar Free Gift Basket, which includes sugar free chocolates, jelly beans, fruit candies, andsugar free a variety of snacks like crackers, pretzel sticks, cheese dip, popcorn, and coffee – all in a lovely wicker basket.

There are a number of wonderful treats that you can put together to create your own sugar free gift basket such as Gimbal’s Sugar Free Scottie Dogs, miniature Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, the Go Lightly “Just Chocolates” variety, Werther’s hard caramels, Swiss Miss sensible sweets light cocoa mix and Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate bars. To add some sugar free baked goods, check out the marvelous recipes in Terry Smith’s book Sugar Free Baking Recipes: Delicious Baking Recipes With No Added Sugar. When you put these treats together with creativity, your loved ones will really appreciate the care you’ve shown.

It’s no fun having to feel deprived around the holidays, so if you do know someone who’s on a sugar-restrictive diet, this kind of gift would perk them up through the Christmas season.

Gift Idea – Tea

Gift Idea – Tea

In many homes around the world, hot tea is the drink of choice while in the American South, sweet, ice-cold tea is a staple. Whether hot or cold, tea makes a great gift at Christmas for friends, family, co-workers or neighbors.

There are many tea gifts you can give to someone, but a few are really impressive. Take the Numi Organic Tea Flowering Gift Set, for example. It tea leavescomes in a handcrafted Mahogany bamboo chest filled with teas just as organic green tea, Osmanthus flower, organic oolong, Jasmine and more.

The initial presentation to your recipient is impressive enough, but inside there is a glass teapot with six flowering tea blossoms that bloom inside the pot when you pour the water over the tea to steep it. And each flower can be steeped 3 times before it’s finished.

The Art of Appreciation Gift Baskets company makes some wonderful tea gift sets for those on your Christmas gift list. Try the Tea Time Treasures Tea Pot Shaped Gift Bag Tote set, which has Enlight-Tea-Ments English Breakfast Tea, Enlight-Tea-Ments Apricot Medley Tea, Longevity Chai Tea Mix, Joy Chai Tea Mix, Peace Chai Tea Mix, Petals Ice Tea Drink Mix, A single sample of premium Ashby’s Tea in Raspberry, Lemon and Green Tea. Along with the varieties of tea, the gift includes Mrs. Grace Lemon Tea Cookies, Too Good Gourmet Raspberry Tea Cookies and a chocolate dipped Silk Crunch Cookie.

The same company makes the Tea Lovers Care Package Gift Box, which is presented in an adorable tea box tied with a satin bow. tea steepingInside, your gift recipient will receive breakfast tea and mixes, along with a big selection of treats like cookies, flavored honey sticks, bonbons, and more.

The WISSOTZKY Magic Tea Box is an 80-piece tea set that makes a great gift. You get black tea, fruit tea, and herbal tea. There are eight total flavors inside the beautiful tea box.

The Sweetest Mom Tea and Cookie Gift Basket is a tea gift set that includes a Mothers Are Forever Inspirational Keepsake Book, Gourmet Cookies, Tea and more in a Sunny Yellow Woven Tote.

The Art of Appreciation You’re My Cup of Tea Gourmet Food Gift Basket is a great choice, too. The wicker basket is shaped like a fanciful teacup! It overflows with tea goodies, including a variety of teas, biscotti, chocolate squares, cookies, and more.

They also make a Victorian Lace Gourmet Food and Spa Gift Basket Set with Clock, which includes tea and a whole lot more – and it’s all packaged in an antiquetea time looking wooden chest that has a clock in it. The chest has English Roses painted by hand on it, and inside is a spa delight – bath gel, body lotion, body butter, body scrub, candles, notepad, cookies, picture frame and tea.

Want to go all out for someone really special in your life who loves tea? Sign them up on your dime for a Teavana tea of the Month Club. They have the Connoisseurs Club, White Tea Club, Green Tea Club, Black Tea Club, and Herbal Tea Club – where your gift recipient will get a new set of tea each month for a whole year! This is a gift for a very sophisticated tea drinker.

Of course, the best thing you can give is some of your own time. Go have a cup of tea with your special someone and celebrate the holidays together.

Gift Ideas – Coffee

Gift Ideas – Coffee

At Christmastime or virtually any other time of the year, most everyone loves to receive the gift of coffee. Some have their favorite brands and flavors they stick with, yet others are adventurous and willing to taste a variety of options.

You can either give someone a gift of coffee itself, or pair it with a coffee machine – from one-cup units to French press choices – there are many on the market. Coffee is a wonderful gift for family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.coffee scoop

An inexpensive choice for your mail carrier or neighbor is the Coffee Masters Around The World In Twelve Coffees Variety Pack. Sampling the flavors from Africa to Indonesia and beyond will tantalize and delight their tastebuds.

The same company makes a specific Christmas gift pack called the Coffee Masters The Twelve Coffees of Christmas Variety Pack Ground Coffee. It comes in a holiday package and includes flavors like Caramel Kiss, Turtle Sundae, and Cinn Ful Nut, among others.

A charming larger gift option is the Art of Appreciation Gift Baskets Coffee Lovers Care Package Gift Box comes with its own coffee mug and many gourmet flavors such as Jamocha Almond Fudge and Butterscotch. The basket also includes tiramisu cookies and other sweet treats.

coffee with creamHow about a premiere, elegant coffee gift basket? The Art of Appreciation Gift Baskets Coffee Connoisseur Gourmet Food Gift Basket is a delightful, high-end gift for that special someone on your list. In addition to the delicious coffee flavors they include, such as Columbian, Butterscotch and Jamocha Almond Fudge, you’re also giving an array of chocolate sweet treats like Java Bon Cappuccino candy, Chocolate Espresso Cups, and more.

Then there’s the Coffee Caddy Gourmet Food Gift Basket made by Art of Appreciation Gift Baskets. It comes with premium coffees, latte mixes, and many treats to soothe a sweet tooth.

coffee cozyOne unique coffee gift idea is the Coffee Sampler Gift Basket by ig4U has a four-piece worldwide coffee selection, and includes coffee trimmings like raw sugar, stirrers, creamer, mug and sweets. It’s presented in a basket made of bamboo with a beautiful ribbon.

The Crazy for Coffee Gourmet Food and Snacks by Art of Appreciation Gift Baskets is a genuine treat for your friends and family because it includes a wide assortment of coffees and drink mixes, all paired with rich sweet treats like Latte Candy and Chocolate Espresso Beans.

Do a bit of research on which kind of coffee your Christmas list members might enjoy most. Do they prefer premium coffee, espresso, or cappuccino? Do they already have a coffee maker or would you like to get them one? Coffee is a marvelous year-round gift, but it’s particularly appreciated during the chilly winter months, when a cup of coffee from you will warm their bodies and their hearts.

Christmas in July Beverages

Christmas in July Beverages

So, “Christmas in July” occurred this week. Not everybody is into it. Whether you celebrate it or not, here are some awesome Christmas themed beverages to help you cool down during the Dog Days of Summer here in the Northern Hemisphere.

I’m a big fan of eggnog, so I was excited to find this recipe on Party411.com among their Christmas in July party ideas.

Eggnog Milkshake

1 cup Vanilla Ice Cream
1/3 cup Eggnog
Nutmeg
Shot of brandy, rum or whiskey (optional)
Combine ingredients in a blender, and mix until blended. Top with a dash of Nutmeg.

If you can’t find eggnog this time of year you can always make your own:

Eggnog

4 cups milk
4 cups heavy cream
12 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
4 whole cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, vanilla extract, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon and place over a low flame. Bring the milk to a boil, stirring constantly to keep from scorching. Combine eggs yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk together. Slowly pour some of the hot milk into the bowl to temper the egg yolks. Then pour the egg mixture into the saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Stir constantly for about four minutes until the mixture thickens, but do not bring it to a boil. Strain out the cloves and let stand until cooled. Stir in the heavy cream.

Guests will love the attention to detail!

Of course, you can have eggnog any time with help from Amazon. The great thing about Borden’s shelf stable eggnog is that it’s not going to take up valuable room in your fridge until you’re ready to open it. A great alternative is to use the holiday flavored syrups from Amoretti to bring your coffee or tea to life.

     

Some more tantalizing treats

Leigh Ann at Your Homebased Mom has a wonderful recipe for Frozen Hot Chocolate that was inspired when she was reviewing her friend Laura Powell’s book Warm Up Your Winter: Holiday Hot Chocolate and Cider Recipes

Frozen Hot Chocolate
I’ve also leaned on Martha Stewart for some classy Christmas beverages to tickle your taste buds. She certainly does not disappoint with her collection of non-alcoholic holiday drinks.

The drinks that caught my eye were her Peppermint Hot Chocolate and the Black Currant Cider Sparklers.

As a Christmas in July drink, Peppermint Hot Chocolate may be a bit counterintuitive. With a slight tweak, we can make the beverage a bit more summer-friendly. Prepare the cocoa as described in Martha’s recipe adding a few drops of blue food coloring to render a deep blue beverage. Shatter a peppermint stick to create stars that you can sprinkle across the surface of the drinks and then add two peppermint sticks to each cup. Once prepared, chill the cocoa in your refrigerator. This will create an American flag themed cool cocoa treat that you can serve proudly for Christmas in July.

What attracted me to the Black Currant Cider Sparklers is that it gives me a chance to use one of our favorite celebratory beverages. My family loves Martinelli’s Gold Medal Sparkling Cider as a non-alcoholic alternative to champagne for celebrations such as New Year’s toasts, birthday parties and classing up the table for Thanksgiving Dinner. Adding a bit of black currant juice to an already beloved beverage reminds me of my mom’s famous Thimble Cookies. My extended family always enjoyed looking forward to my Mom’s mountain of Christmas Cookies and in particular the Thimble Cookies!

Melting Snowman Cookies
Of course, with all of these cool summertime holiday themed drinks it’s only fair we get some Christmas in July cookies. To this end, Charlene at My Frugal Adventures has a whimsical Christmas In July cookie idea. Melting Snowman Cookies are a comical notion for a mid-summer Christmas celebration and a great way to enjoy a bite of the holidays with your Christmas in July beverages

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