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!

Elves’ Day Off

Elves’ Day Off

Well, we probably don’t need to know this much about elf dating but the folks at TXT Stories decided to follow the rabbit hole as deep as they could go.

TXTMAS 2018 #7 – ONE NIGHT OFF |by txtstories

TXTMAS EP. 7 – elves get one day off all year… 😏
#txtmas

Posted by TXT Stories on Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Personally, I’d expect the elves are getting carpal tunnel syndrome therapy on their day off considering they spend all year making toys but we all have our own ideas of how Santa’s helpers unwind.

Have a Frostmas Party

Festive Fridays

Have a Frostmas Party

I’m a big fan of Winter and of good ol’ Jack Frost. When they characterized him as a rascal in the third Santa Clause movie, I thought that was just marvelous. Martin Short’s portrayal of Jack Frost was hilarious. One of the things he was being censured by his peers for was promoting his own holiday of Frostmas.fd

Merry Frostmas!

Merry Frostmas!

Frankly, I’m 100% in favor of it. I even started giving my kids Frostmas presents on the Winter Solstice. Let’s take a look at some more of the frosty characters we can enjoy at our Frostmas party.


In The Year Without a Santa Claus, Mrs Claus had to enlist the help of the mercurial Snow Miser and his irascible brother the Heat Miser to show Santa that people cared whether or not he participated in the holiday. Now for starters, you’ve gotta love a guy with his own theme song. Add to that an army of minions who break into synchronized dance at a moment’s notice and you’ve got a character for the ages. To this day, I can’t help but smile when I hear this song. He’s too much…

Winter Warlock and Santa
In Santa Claus is Coming to Town, we met the Winter Warlock. He was a menacing elemental figure who commanded the high reaches of the mountains outside of Sombertown. With his special blend of merry kindness and generosity, Santa eventually melts the warlock’s heart. He does seem to be a variation of the Russian mythological figure known as Ded Moroz.

After the Russian Revolution, religion was banned as an enemy of the state. Santa was outlawed like he was by the Burgomeister Meisterburger. The fantastical creature Morozko, a snow demon, was sort of Santa-fied and became the embodiment of the holiday season. Instead of Christmas, Father Frost and his helper the Frost Maiden (Snegurochka) gave presents on New Year’s Day.

Ded Moroz is a bit more harsh than Santa. Santa will give out coal or even let Zwarte Piet hand out a bit of punishment with his switches. Ded Moroz, like Jack Frost and the Snow Miser, will freeze someone who displeases him as he did in the story of the Unkind Sister. Check out this movie of his legend.


His assistant, the Snow Maiden, is not unlike Santa’s elves. She has a story of her own. There are a few variations of the Snow Maiden story which include a child who is created from a statuette of snow who grows to childhood but evaporates while jumping a campfire with her friends. Another version, she is a snow spirit who craves the company of regular folk. She wishes to love a shepherd but cannot. Her mother gives her the ability to love, but it melts her heart and consequently she melts entirely away. In Soviet times, she was rebranded as Father Frost’s granddaughter and helper.


So, here’s to nippy frostiness! Have a Happy Frostmas and enjoy the winter weather inside or out.

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

How Christmas Parties Can Help You Win The Game Of Thrones

game-of-thrones-doll

How Christmas Parties Can Help You Win The Game Of Thrones

Christmas parties are festive occasions for family, friends and co-workers. Who you invite and who you don’t can be a matter of practicality or it can be a calculated snub. Some people play power politics on the job and at home. Such people might invite the folks they want to impress. Some can be as calculating as a Lannister.

Truth is, big Christmas parties used to be the domain of royalty. Aristocrats put on lavish affairs to demonstrate their status and show up their peers. They were as boisterous and outlandish as anything George R. R. Martin envisioned in the lands of Westeros. In 1213, King John of England ordered 10,000 salt eels from the Sheriff of Canterbury! Another of the king’s orders listed 1,000 hens, 200 head of pork, 100 lbs of almonds, 50 lbs of pepper, 24 hogshead of wine, 2 lbs of saffron and other supplies.

In the time of the Tudors, the twelve days from Christmas to Epiphany were a time of wild revelry, jousting, card playing and visiting relatives. All work ceased and even women’s spinning was set aside. The idle spinning wheels were decorated with flowers. The Tudors also beat us to the punch on the Turducken. A Tudor Christmas Pie consisted of a pigeon stuffed in a partridge stuffed in a chicken stuffed in a goose stuffed in a turkey surrounded by a stew of rabbit and game birds baked in a crust that was aptly called a coffin.

christmas-partyChristmas was driven underground during the Puritan rule of England, but it began to grow in popularity again once the monarchy was restored. As Christmas was popularized for the middle class, holiday parties became a chance to jockey for influence. In olden times, it was a formal arrangement to declare the Lord of Misrule to serve as king for a day. Of late, it seems to be the wag who drinks too much and thinks too little of the damage to be done to his or her career. However, with the changing centuries, what was old is new again. The decadent romps of the Middle Ages are echoed in the halls of power today. Whether that is financial or political power, you’re likely to find the Machiavellian ladder climbers schmoozing their patrons and the less forward thinking participants photocopying their posteriors.

So be wary, gentle reader. If you are invited to a Christmas party, it might just be egg nog and cookies. But then again, it might be a doorway to your next step on the ladder to power. Play your cards right and you might just survive the Game of Thrones!

Trivia Day and Spaghetti Day

Trivia Day and Spaghetti Day

Christmastime is quickly slipping away and we’ve only got a little bit of the magic left to share. So, why not sit the family down around a bowl of spaghetti and play some trivia games?

Spaghetti Day

Spaghetti Day Spaghetti is a wonderful comfort food for the chillier times of the year. You can enjoy the usual tomato sauce, alfredo sauce or garlic butter depending on your mood. You can also add proteins such as meatballs, shrimp, sausage or langostinos to fortify the dish. If you’re into vegetables, you can use a light broth and make a wonderful pasta primavera.

There are unresolved issues about the origin of spaghetti. Some say that it was created in Ancient Greece and others hold that Marco Polo brought it back from the East after dining on it at the court of Kublai Khan. Whatever the truth is, we’re glad we have this versatile dish to keep us warm and nourished.

Trivia Day

Is there anything more enjoyable for a family to enjoy than an evening playing a trivia game? From the classic Trivial Pursuit and all of its specialty variations (we really enjoy Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit) to the latest craze in trivia games, trivia games test your memory and teach you things you might not have known before.

If you want to tackle the latest trivia games, I’ve located 119 amazing facts that could help you in your next trivia challenge.

Click on this game to get your copy

Click on this game to get your copy

Click on this game to get your copy

It’s the Eleventh Day of Christmas and not a moment too soon. Who doesn’t love a band of pipers?
 

Eleven Pipers Piping

New Year’s Day

Happy New Year

New Year’s Day

Some people start off with traditional dishes or festive parades and others simply start off with a hangover. Either way, it’s your day to start anew!

Hangovers

hangover Sadly, some people get a bit carried away on New Year’s Eve. I’m not one of them.

I stay home with my wife and kids and we throw confetti around the house at midnight. We drink Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider. We make a lot of noise and go to bed.

If you are one of the unfortunate multitude who wings one too many dings, I’ve found 11 surefire cures for a hangover. Click through to have a look at the magic formula. I hope you feel better soon.

Traditions

People have a lot of traditions for New Year’s Day. I’m from a part of Pennsylvania where the Pennsylvania Dutch are a strong cultural influence. There’s nothing more traditional around my home than enjoying a plate of pork and sauerkraut for good luck on New Year’s Day. Some people find sauerkraut a little bitter, so it helps to cut up an apple and cook it in with the sauerkraut to take off the edge.

Another tradition from where I grew up is the annual Mummer’s Parade. This parade has been going in its present form since 1901. The parade is made up of local organizations who participate in four divisions. The string bands, comics, fancies and fancy brigades.

Another parade that I’ve always been a fan of is the Tournament of Roses. The floats are tremendous works of art. Mosaics made of variously colored roses travel the streets of Pasadena, California. This parade starts at 8AM Pacific Time which is 11AM here on the East Coast. That’s a plus because those who want to watch both the Mummers and the Rose Parade won’t have to choose between them.

Mummers Parade

Click the pirates to watch the Mummers in Philadelphia starting at 9AM

Tournament of Roses

Pork & Sauerkraut

Pork & Sauerkraut may or may not bring good luck, but what’s the harm in trying?

Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions A new year means a new start for a lot of people. 45% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions, but significantly fewer stick to them. The most common resolutions center around:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Getting organized
  • Getting fit and healthy
  • Getting back on a budget
  • Losing weight
  • Spending more wisely

Up to 25% of people who make resolutions give up on them before the end of January. The best way to stay out of this group is to start small. Only make resolutions you think you can keep. Break them out into small achievable steps. When you’ve succeeded in completing a step, it will boost your confidence to keep on with the following steps. Stay positive. Stay on track. You will succeed!

Well, I couldn’t find 8 maids milking, but I found this charming oil by mid-17th Century Dutch artist Gerard ter Borch.

Eight Maids A'Milking

“A Maid Milking a Cow in a Barn” circa 1652-1654 by Gerard ter Borch

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve

Here’s the final day of 2015. As we’ve been reflecting on our year and looking forward to the next, it’s time for one last look before the year slips away.

It’s a tradition to ring in the new year with family and friends because the first people you see will bring you luck, good or bad depending on who you’re with. The most popular places to celebrate are Las Vegas, Disney World and Times Square in New York City.

times-square
 

If you’re interested in watching a live streaming Times Square party, the broadcast begins at 5:55PM New York Time. We hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we do!
 

 

For the Seventh Day of Christmas, we actually have seven swans a-swimming! Okay, it’s a swan and 6 cygnets, but let’s not split hairs.
 

Seven Swans A'Swimming

Festivus and National Pfeffernusse Day

Festivus and National Pfeffernusse Day

We’ve got pfeffernusse cookies today to help us celebrate Festivus. Frank Costanza may not have approved of tinsel, but we approve of cookies covered with confectioner’s sugar!

Festivus

A Festivus for the rest of us! This is a silly holiday that was invented by Frank Costanza on the Seinfeld TV show. As it turns out, it was actually invented by the father of Dan O’Keefe who wrote the episode. His experiences were filtered through the lens of the Seinfeld characters and made even more comical.

Aspects of the holiday are the unadorned aluminum pole, the Airing of Grievances and the Feats of Strength. Click the image of the book to learn more about this anti-commercial, non-religious, totally hilarious holiday.

National Pfeffernusse Day

This spicy cookie has roots and variations throughout Northern Europe. German immigrants brought it to America with them as a holiday tradition some time in the 1850s.

Traditional homemade pfeffernusse are a small hard biscuit that you may wish to dip in your tea, coffee or milk. Typically, the store bought cookies are baked to be soft and able to be eaten without dunking.

Pfeffernusse Cookies

Click on the cookies to see the recipe
Image courtesy of Jenn at allrecipes.com

Sacher Torte & 21st Amendment Cocktails

Chocolate Cake

Sacher Torte & 21st Amendment Cocktails

So, yesterday we talked about kids’ stuff. Christmas is really all about the kids anyway, but that doesn’t mean that the grown ups can’t have some refined treats of their own.

National Sacher Torte Day



Today is National Sacher Torte Day in celebration of a chocolate cake that is fit for a prince, literally. Chef in training, Franz Sacher, was called upon by his employer Prince Metternich of Austria to provide a dessert suitable for his guests in 1832. The head chef had taken ill and it was on Franz’s shoulders to fill in. The cake was not a disappointment, but it did not become instantly famous. The son of Franz Sacher, Eduard, became a chef in his own right and perfected his father’s recipe. You can enjoy this regal dessert from Vienna or have a go at preparing it yourself.

Celebrate the 21st Amendment

On December 5th, 1933, we closed a chapter of American history that began with the best intentions but led to some of the worst results. Prohibition was a period of time that was meant to improve the human condition by removing the troublesome influence of alcohol, but the actual outcome was one of rampant lawlessness and a decrease of civil liberties. Learn more at the Repeal Day site. Since we’re free to imbibe again, I’ve located a couple of festive cocktails that you can serve to add a dash of holiday flair to your get-togethers.

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