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Friday, November 18, 2011

Holiday Planner

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How to accommodate overnight holiday guests Thousands of people travel far and wide to visit family and friends for the holidays. Chances are many holiday hosts and hostesses will open their homes to overnight guests. Although visions of Cousin Eddy from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" and his band of misfit family members come to mind, most holiday guests are more of a pleasure to have around. It might be mildly inconvenient to host guests for a day or two, but preparation can help alleviate such inconveniences. There are a number of ways to get ready for holiday guests. Keep these tips in mind as you prepare your home. ★ Set aside space. Not every household has a spare guest room available, but there are ways to make guests feel like they have their own private area. There's the possibility of giving up your own room for the night or set up a space in an out-of-the-way den or a child's bedroom for the time being. People who live in the house may be more comfortable bunking with another than an outside guest. ★ Offer individual linens. A fresh set of sheets and towels contributes to a hotel's comfort level. Welcome guests with a set of fresh sheets and soft towels. ★ Stock extra toiletries.

The holiday season is a busy time, and it's easy for travelers to forget a thing or two. Keep an extra toothbrush and some spare mouthwash at the ready. Travel-sized soaps and shampoos may be more convenient for guests and might help them feel more comfortable and less burdensome staying in your home. ★ Accommodate guests' needs. Some guests may be allergic to certain foods, while others may prefer to watch the late-night news before bed. Find out their preferences beforehand so you can do your best to make them feel comfortable. ★ Have laundry services available. Give guests their own laundry bag so they can wash clothes if they'll be staying for an extended period of time. Fresh clothes make anyone feel better. ★ Invest in an air mattress. Having extra places for guests to sleep often comes in handy. Air mattresses are easy to inflate at a moment's notice for an unexpected guest and can be quickly deflated and stored in a closet or under a bed. ★ Bend house rules. While certain rules may be set in stone, bed times or meal times may have to be changed to accommodate guests who aren't used to the goings-on of the household.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Put some “green” in your holiday planing With the holiday season on the horizon, many people’s thoughts turn to charitable giving and other altruistic efforts. Amid giving a helping hand to those who need it and donating to worthy charities, individuals can think about giving back to the planet as well. Many people equate the holiday season with trying to do more or give more. While these efforts are well-intentioned, the “bigger is better” mantra often turns into a season of excess. From thousands of twinkling lights adorning homes to pounds of wrapping paper used on gifts, the toll the holiday season takes on the environment is substantial. The Clean Air Council estimates that an additional 5 million tons of waste is generated during the holidays in the U.S., and 4 million tons of this is wrapping paper and shopping bags. Incandescent twinkle bulbs consume considerable power, especially when every house in the neighborhood is lit up. Extra food is often purchased to make holiday meals lavish, and plastic or disposable dishes and utensils is commonly chosen for convenience. All of this adds up to considerable excess. There are several ways to reduce the impact the holidays have on the environment. Making smart choices and being conscious of when you could be adopting the “bigger is better” philosophy could help. ☛ SWITCH holiday lights to LED ones. LEDs use 80 to 90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. Plus they are supposed to

last longer before burnout. Although their initial cost is higher than standard bulbs, energy savings and longer lifespan mitigate these initial costs. ☛ PLACE lights on a timer so that the light display turns off overnight. If you don’t have a timer, simply turn the lights off when going to bed. ☛ BUY items with less packaging to reduce waste. If you plan to purchase the same items as other friends and family (i.e. adhesive tape or tissue paper), think about buying one bulk package and splitting the contents. ☛ REDUCE reliance on wrapping paper. Many people now forgo wrapping paper for gift bags because they are easily portable and can be used over and over. If you select wrapping paper, choose types that can be recycled and papers that are already made of recycled materials. You can also use unique materials for wrapping items, such as cloth with ribbon or handkerchiefs. ☛ TRIM the tree with handmade items. Stringing popcorn and berries to make a homemade garland is a much greener option than plastic tinsel. Use pine cones collected at the end of autumn and decorate with acrylic paints and hang with ribbon. To add to a Christmas decoration collection, shop at thrift stores or tag sales to find gently used decorations that are new to you. ☛ For those who want a real Christmas tree this year, BUY one with the root ball intact. Then plant the pine tree in the yard after the holidays are over.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

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Getting married during the holidays Although prime wedding season runs from May through October, many brides- and grooms-to-be choose to tie the knot during the winter, with the holidays providing a popular backdrop to the wedding festivities. Holiday weddings are often joyous affairs. People are jolly, decorations abound, and there’s a chance that some snowfall can make your picturesque photo dreams come true. And considering most churches and reception sites are already trimmed in seasonal decor to accommodate var-

Some brides and grooms may choose to incorporate red and green into their wardrobes for a wedding during the holidays.

ious holiday parties, chances are you can save a little money on floral arrangements and extra accessories. Having a wedding during the holidays also makes it easier to plan out themes and color schemes. For those who have difficulty deciding on bubblegum pink bridesmaids gowns or teal table linens, working with the colors of the winter season makes planning simple. Choose among burgundy, berry red, forest green, gold, silver, cream, and light blue to set the mood of the event. Deep red gowns complement any skin tone, and bouquets full of green and white fill call to mind a light snow dusting evergreen boughs. When selecting wedding invitations, be sure to choose a design that will set the invitation apart from the holiday greetings already being delivered to wedding guests. You may want to forgo a folded card or any holiday inspired embellishments on the invitations altogether. Instead, go with a classic white or offwhite card. A border of snowflakes or a mention of a holiday theme in the invitation wording will clue in guests to the wedding’s holiday theme. Because the holidays are already a busy time of the year, there are a few other considerations couples should heed when planning their weddings. ◆ Push up the dates you do all of your meetings with vendors. The season is awash in parties and other festive events; therefore, reception sites, caterers, florists, limousine services, and disc jockeys may book quickly. Try to secure as many vendors as possible as soon as you set

your wedding date. ◆ Consult with a clergy member to discuss having a religious wedding during the holiday season. Certain dates may be restricted due to liturgical requirements or simply because of special churchrelated events. ◆ Wedding guests are likely to be busy themselves during the holiday season, so be sure to send out save-thedate cards to advertise your wedding well in advance of sending out the actual invitations. When invitations are mailed, do so about 3 months before the wedding. ◆ Flowers may be more expensive this time of the year, so spread a tight budget by including candles, greenery (like evergreen branches or holly) or simple poinsettia plants with other more traditional flowers. ◆ Be sure to factor weather into the planning. If gowns will not have sleeves, be sure to select shrugs or capes that can be worn for warmth. Muffs or full-arm gloves can be elegant and warming as well. ◆ Get creative with wedding cakes to tie into the theme. An all-white cake can look like it’s covered in snow. A cake can be shaped into a wrapped gift or a giant ornament. ◆ Also keep in mind that this is a busy travel season. Therefore you may want to wait until well after New Year’s before embarking on your honeymoon. Otherwise you could pay a premium for airline tickets. A wedding during the holiday season can be magical and something that adds even more sentimental value to an already joyous time of year.


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How to prepare for holiday pet boarding The holiday season is a time when many family and friends come together. If you’ll be going home for the holidays, that trip may or may not include the family pet. For people with a pet at home, it might not always be possible to bring the pet along during holiday excursions. Therefore, arrangements must be made for the animal while you will be away. From pet sitters to boarding facilities, pet parents must decide where to turn. According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spend roughly $3.5 billion on grooming and boarding their pets every year. Boarding is common during vacations or holiday travel. When preparing a pet for boarding, there are some suggested tips for making the process go smoothly. The process begins even before you’re bringing your pet to the boarder. Finding a boarder Most animals are like extended members of the family. Therefore, pet parents want to find a facility that will take good care of the animal and ensure its comfort and safety. Wordof-mouth recommendations are one of the best ways to get a feel for a particular boarder if you haven’t used one before. When visiting facilities,

look for certain things, including cleanliness, the number of employees available, the appearance of the animals, the areas where the pets are allowed to go and things of this nature. Ask certain questions, including how pets are housed and exercised. Find out if you are allowed to bring in food for the pet and his or her own treats to minimize stomach discomfort. Investigate how a health issue is handled, including whether your veterinarian will be called or if the facility has a relationship with another vet. Steer clear of facilities that do not offer satisfactory answers to all of your questions or seem opposed to your ideas and concerns. Preparing the pet Many boarding facilities require that pets be vaccinated prior to their stays. The boarder may have specific immunizations that are required. Be sure to update vaccinations a month prior to boarding the animal. Sometimes the vaccination can produce minor symptoms of the actual illness, which the boarder may mistake as a sick dog. There are also other things that you can do to prep a dog or cat prior to its stay. Get a vet check-up just to ensure your pet’s health, especially if the animal is old and has chronic conditions. At this point, doublecheck medications and get

extra supplies for the boarder. Bathe the pet and keep up with flea/tick prevention so the animal will be protected when in close proximity to other animals. Inspect the dog or cat to ensure that the pet does not have an infestation. Checking in Bring your pet to the boarder early and pack along some of the animal’s comfort toys or belongings, including a piece of clothing that has your scent. Clearly mark bags of food and any items you bring so they will be identified for your dog or cat. Leave contact information with the boarder and review the information on how long the stay will be. Inquire as to what times are best to phone in and check up on the pet. Some hightech boarding facilities may have cameras in the building that you can access via the Internet to see the goings-on while away. Leaving the pet may pluck at your heartstrings, so it’s best not to linger, otherwise you could add to your anxiety and also the dog or cat’s level of nervousness. If you do your homework researc h i n g facilities, chances are you have found a boarder that will provide adequate care for your pet and you’ll return to find a pet who is healthy and happy to see you.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!


Friday, November 18, 2011

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Layaway plans make a comeback If you thought layaway plans had gone the way of eight-track players and floppy disks, think again. The deferred payment or installment plan, once popular with budget-conscious consumers — especially during the holiday season — is making a big comeback. For people who are unfamiliar with the concept or were born after the 1980s (when installment plans gave way to credit card purchases and other types of financing), layaway is a simple way to purchase merchandise — interestfree — over time. Consumers select the items

they want to buy from a retailer offering the plan, make a deposit, which often includes a modest service c h a r g e, and pay for the merchandise over a specified period. Once the item has been paid in full, the retailer releases the goods to the consumer. The only potential glitch is if the consumer fails to make payments in full or on time. In that event, the retailer has the option of returning the customer’s payments (less service charges) and reselling the items. While there’s no doubt that today’s shaky economy has contri buted to the

r ev i val of layaway plans, economists and represent a t i ves of seve ral of the nation’s leading retailers and layaway providers — Sears, K-Mart, Burlington Coat Factory, Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, Toys R’ U s, and Hallmark — insist that the recession is only part of the story. For retailers, layaway plans open the doors to millions of new customers who would not be able to make purchases without them. For consumers, paying in installments is increasingly viewed as a sound financial tool for purchasing necessities and managing expenses, particularly during the holiday season. Overall, layaw ay plans are heavy on benefits, including: No fine print: For the most part, retailers’ l ayaway plans are straightfo r wa r d and easy to understand. No credit checks: Credit checks are not required to enter into a layaway cont ract, making it a great

option for people who are trying to rebuild their credit due to foreclosure or past credit card problems. No need to leave home: Some retailers have launched e-layaway programs, making it possible for consumers to purchase online over time. There are only a few drawbacks to layaw ay plans, but they are worth noting: Missed payments: Making payments — and making them on time — is the key to a successful layaway purchase. The penalty for missing payments is the

cancellation of the layaway c o n t ra c t . H oweve r, most plans offer a seve n - d ay grace period for missed payments. It is important to know the details of each retailer’s plan before signing a contract. Missed sale prices: For shoppers who count on cashing in on Black Friday sales, layaway might not be an option. Some retailers don’t offer Black Fri d ay prices to layaway customers, so it pays to check with the stores you plan to patronize before the holiday shopping season begins.

Buying items on layaway gives shoppers the ability to pay in installments without any interest. The concept is once again gaining popularity in many stores.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Christmas Tunes Challenge Turn on the radio any day in December, and chances are you will catch a Christmas tune or two. Some stations, in fact, play nothing but Christmas music throughout the month. We all have our favorite holiday tunes, but how many of us know who penned them? Did you know, for example, that Irving Berlin wrote "A White Christmas"? Take this quiz and see what else you know. Match the tune to the right songwriter. Write your answers here! 1) "Blue Christmas" _____ 2) "The Christmas Song" _____ 3) "Carol of the Bells" _____ 4) "Do They Know It's Christmas?" _____ 5) "Feliz Navidad" _____ 6) "Frosty the Snowman" _____ 7) "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" _____ 8) "Here Comes Santa Claus" _____ 9) "Home for the Holidays" _____ 10) "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" _____ 11) "I'll Be Home for Christmas" _____ 12) "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" _____ 13) "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" _____ 14) "Jingle Bell Rock" _____ 15) "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" _____ 16) "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" _____ 17) "Santa Baby" _____ 18) "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" _____ 19) "Silver Bells" _____ 20) "Winter Wonderland" _____

A) Joan Ellen Javits & Philip and Tony Springer B) Jay Livingston & Ray Evans C) Joseph Carleton Beal & James Ross Boothe D) Felix Bernard & Richard B. Smith E) Steve Nelson & Walter E. Rollins F) Mel Tormé & Robert Wells G) Gene Autry & Oakley Halderman H) Fred Coots & Haven Gillespie I) Johnny Marks J) Sammy Cahn & Jule Styne K) Peter J. Wilhousky & Mykola Leontovich L) Bob Allen & Al Stillman M) Ralph Blane & Hugh Martin N) Edward Pola & George Wyle O) José Feliciano P) Walter Kent, Kim Gannon & Buck Ram Q) Midge Ure & Bob Geldof R) Meredith Willson S) Tommie Connor Answers on T) Billie Hayes & Jay W. Johnson page 34.

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'Tis the season for online

holiday scams and cons

SHOP LOCAL!

It is sad but true: As the holiday season heats up, so do the number of scams and cons perpetrated on unsuspecting consumers. While swindlers, thieves and pickpockets operate yearround, the period from November to January offers criminals more opportunities for wrongdoing and a population of prospective targets who are feeling generous and preoccupied with the demands and doings of the holiday season. Consumers can avoid being victimized this season by being both wary and aware of the types of holiday scams that are out there. According to ConsumerAffairs.com, some of the most common online cons include: Charity "phishing" scams. During the holiday season, computer hackers prey on people's generosity by sending what appear to be legitimate e-mails seeking donations to legitimate charities. However, these cybercriminals use fake Web sites with the purpose of stealing not only donations, but donors' identities and credit card information. What to do: Ignore and immediately delete e-mails asking for

donations and personal information. Make charitable donations directly to organizations you know and trust. Fake delivery invoices. The rise of Internet shopping has opened the doors to scams involving fake invoices and delivery notices from services such as FedEx, UPS or even the U.S. Customs Service. Cybercriminals email consumers requesting credit card information to credit the bank account or inform users that they have to open an online invoice or U.S. customs form in order to receive their package. This is actually a way for criminals to install malware -- software that is intended to damage or disable computers and computer systems -- and steal personal information. What to do: Track online purchases carefully and know what items are en route at any given time. Internet retailers will inform you when an item has shipped, but delivery services and U.S. Customs do not issue online invoices. Social networking and holiday e-card scams. The holiday season is a social time of year when cybercriminals seize

opportunities to steal personal information through social network "friend requests" and bogus holiday e-cards. What to do: If you receive a friend request or e-card from someone you don't know and have never heard of, don't click on the link. Identity theft from public computers and open networks. With millions of online holiday transactions speeding through cyberspace, cyberthieves are in hacker heaven. What to do: To ensure that your personal information is safe from the spying eyes of hackers, shop only on secure Web sites and never make financial transactions from a public computer or an open WI-Fi connection. The bottom line: The holiday season is when c y b e rcriminals go into high gear, so be aware of any e-mail that looks fishy or requests personal information. If you're unsure, the best bet is to delete the e-mail and contact the Better Business Bureau online at www.bbb.org or the U.S. Department of Justice at www.cybercrime.gov.


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HOOFED HELPERS.... TRUE OR FALSE What has hoofs and helps Santa deliver gifts on Christmas Eve night? Reindeer, you say? You're right. Without them, Santa could not make his sleigh ride. How much do you know about Santa's reindeer? Take this quiz and find out. Q: The reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh were first named in "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" in 1823. A: True. Q: According to the poem, the original eight were Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. A: False, the last two were originally called Dunder and Blixem. Q: Loosely translated from Dutch to English, Dunder and Blixem mean "thunder" and "lightning." A: True. Q: Some historians believe Dunder and Blixem may be representative of the magical goats pulling Thor's chariot in Norse mythology.

A: True. Q: Dunder and Blixem appeared as Donder and Blixen or Blitzen in later variations of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." A: True. Q: Over time, Dunder evolved into Donner, which was later cemented by the song, "Rudolph the RedNosed Reindeer." A: True. Q: The song introduced a ninth reindeer and was based on a story written by Robert L. May to give away to children at Montgomery Ward stores. A: True. Q: Rudolph was different from the other reindeer in that he had red eyes. A: False, he had a red nose. Q: The other reindeer made fun of Rudolph until he was asked to lead Santa's sleigh in a storm. True or false? A: False, Rudolph was asked to lead the sleigh in the fog.

Q: May's brother-inlaw, Johnny Marks, is responsible for setting his story to music. A: True. Q: Roy Rogers recorded Marks' song in 1949. A: False, Gene Autry recorded it. Q: "Rudolph the RedNosed Reindeer" is considered one of the best-selling songs of all time. A: True. Q: In 1999, Fox produced a special about another reindeer named Oliver. A: False, the reindeer was named Olive. Q: Olive was not really a reindeer. A: True, Olive was a dog. Q: Olive saves Christmas by filling in for the injured Vixen. A: False, she fills in for the injured Blitzen. Well, how did you do? Good, fair, poorly? Whatever the results, few would argue the fact that reindeer play a vivid role in Christmas. The holiday wouldn't be the same without them. They're crucial to Santa's Christmas Eve ride.

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Time to Party...Time to Clean! The cleanliness of your home can make or a break a party. Who wants to attend a party where crumbs litter the floor and sticky handprints grace every surface? No one, that's who. Unfortunately, planning a party takes time, usually lots of it, making cleaning difficult. Some homes are cleaner than others. Where does yours fall on the list? If you house is in need of a major cleanup, you better start now. Make a list of the tasks that need to be done, and divide and conquer them with your family in the days leading up to your party. Clean up the entryway clos-

et one day, and tackle the carpet and upholstery another. When possible, bring in services to do some of the work for you. Professional carpet cleaners will make quick work of your soiled carpets and apply a chemical protectant for an additional fee. If there is no time for a major cleanup, don't despair. You can get your house in order for guests quickly by focusing on the areas they will frequent. Step outside, pretend you're a party guest and enter your home. What rooms are you most likely to use? The entryway? The living and dining rooms?

The powder room? These are the areas you will want to make shine. Shut the doors to all other rooms and leave them be for now. Gather your family and delegate chores. Have everyone pick up and put things away first. Get your kids to put away their toys and your teens to put away their magazines and video games. Have your spouse pick up any stray papers and shoes. Then start the cleaning, attacking all dirt and dust in sight. Get your daughter to dust, your son to wipe down the mirrors and glass surfaces, and your spouse to vacuum. Now is not the time for deep cleaning. Focus on the things you can clean up with ease and camouflage the ones you can't with artwork, pillows, throws and rugs. Don't forget. Your party

guests will be looking to chat, not pick on your housecleaning skills. A clean, fresh scent is essential, so do what you can to make the place smell great. Fill the vase in the entryway with fresh flowers, make some cinnamon tea in the kitchen and light up some scented candles in the living room. Just make sure you don't go overboard and create too many scents. You don't want sensitive guests to tear up and start sneezing the moment

they walk into your front door. You don't have to spend days on end cleaning for your party. A few hours before will suffice, unless your house is out of control. If that's the case, roll up your sleeves and start cleaning now. Call in the troops, and the pros if you have to, to get it done. While you're at it, you might want to do some purging to avoid having to clean around things you no longer want or need.


Dear Santa... Each year as Christmas a p p r o a c h e s, children all over the world sit down to pen a letter to Santa. Some tell Santa how good they have been and how much they are looking forward to his visit. Others wish Santa well and remind him what they want for Chri s t m a s. When finished, the children slip their letter into an envelope, seal it, address it to the North Pole and slide it into the mailbox . Surprisingly, many receive an answer to their letter, thanks to postal wo rkers and other vo l u n t e e r s around the world. Writing a letter to Santa has long been a tradition.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Children in Great Britain used to burn their letters in the hopes the wind would transport them to the North Pole. Today, that is no longer the case. Children look to their post office to help them get their letters to Santa. According to estimates, post offices around the world receive approximately a hundred Santa letters a day during the summer and many times that during the holiday season. In tough economic times, post offices receive more than double the usual amount of letters. While postal worke r s could let the letters sit, that is not an option for many. In

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1912, U. S. Post Service Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock began permitting postal workers in New York City to respond to the letters. This was the start of what would become known as Operation Santa Claus, a program that operates in many post offices around the country. Hundreds of postal workers and volunteers take time out to answer letters. At the Alaskan North Po l e, for example, over a million letters have been sent out. Other nations have their own version of Operation Santa Claus, including Canada, Finland, Fra n c e

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and Germany. France has one of the largest programs, hiring over 50 people just to answer letters to Pere Noel. For those who don't live in an area with such a program but have Internet access, seve ra l websites are available that accept and respond to letters to Santa by e-mail. Parties interested in volunteering to answer letters to Santa should check with their local post office first and see if such a program is available. Due to security reasons and mailing costs, post offices will no longer mail or fax letters to volunteers. Volunteers must pick

them up in person. If there is no program, perhaps one could be started. What child wouldn't appreciate a response from Santa?


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Some dos and don'ts of holiday travel

Arriving early at the airport during the holiday season is one way to reduce the stress of travel during one of the busiest travel seasons of the year.

The holidays are a festive time of year, but they can also prove stressful for the millions of people who travel to visit friends and family or use time off during the holidays to go on vacation. Because so many people travel during the holidays, airports are more crowded than usual and the nation's roadways often experience heavy traffic, especially on the days immediately before and after a holiday. While there's not much travelers can do to reduce the number of fellow travelers come the holiday season, there are certain dos and don'ts that can make holiday travel much easier. DO plan ahead. Leaving holiday travel plans until the last minute is a recipe for disaster. Some air travelers feel it's more affordable

to book flights in the weeks leading up to the holidays rather than months in advance. While it's possible to find last minute airline deals, it's very possible such deals will put travelers on standby. That's potentially disastrous during a travel season that has frequent flight delays or cancellations due to inclement weather. Book travel plans as early as possible to avoid the hassles of last minute bookings. DON'T blame airport staff if things go awry. The holiday season can be stressful for those who have to travel, but it's exceedingly stressful for the men and women who work in the travel industry. Airline employees, particularly those who work at ticket counters, are too often treated poorly by

travelers who need someone to blame for flight delays and cancellations. The same goes for the people who work at bus or train stations. Regardless of how inconvenient interrupted travel plans can be, it's never the fault of the person working at the airport. It's often a result of inclement weather, which is something no one can control. Should travel plans be delayed or cancelled, remain courteous, compassionate and respectful of staff. Doing so is the right thing to do, and it might just garner you some consideration when the time comes to reschedule plans. DO insure your trip. As mentioned above, flight delays and cancellations are common during the holiday season. Heavy snowfall


Friday, November 18, 2011 can wreak havoc on travel plans, even for those people who live in relatively temperate climates. Travelers traveling to or from regions where heavy snowfall is a possibility should always protect themselves against flight cancellations or delays by insuring their trips. Insurance is often inexpensive and can protect travelers if their flight plans go awry. The peace of mind insurance provides can also reduce the stress of holiday travel. DON'T try to make up for

lost time. While there's little air travelers can do to make up for lost time, those traveling by automobile often try to make up for lost time by driving aggressively. Nothing could be more dangerous, as the roads are often overcrowded and driving conditions during the holidays are rarely ideal. Even if a traffic jam or other delay makes it impossible to stick to your travel schedule, don't risk disaster with aggressive driving. Instead, call your destination and explain you will be a little late because of

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delays on the roadway. No matter where you are going, be it a hotel or to a friend or family member's house, they will understand the situation and they will certainly prefer you get there safe and sound, even if that means getting there a little later than originally planned. DO be an early bird. The early bird gets the worm, and when it comes to holiday travel, the early bird can also significantly reduce the stress of traveling. If traveling by air, get to the airport extra early.

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This way you won't have to fret when the lines at baggage check or security checkpoints are long. If traveling via automobile, get up early and hit the road before most drivers are even out of bed. It might not be fun to get up so early, but you will likely start your trip off with little to no traffic. DON'T overdo it. It's tempting to try to see everyone during the holiday season, but most travelers would prefer to stay in one place for more time than to continue traveling

from place to place without spending much time at any one place. Traveling too much can lead to exhaustion, which is especially dangerous for those traveling by automobile. If possible, spread out holiday travel as much as you can, and attempt to spend at least two nights sleeping in the same bed before hitting the road again. Holiday travel doesn't have to be so difficult. Adhering to a few dos and don'ts can make this year's holiday travel far less stressful.


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Sensible planning makes for smart holiday shopping The holiday season is among the most stressful times of year. With long lists of things to do, meals to prepare, family and friends to entertain, and gifts to buy, many people embark on the holiday season with more fear than cheer. And with so many people trying to spend less these days, preparing for the holidays has become that much more challenging. But by planning in advance and establishing a holiday shopping game plan, men and women can save money and maintain their peace of mind. Start at the bottom line. The best way to avoid overspending during the holidays is to establish a budget -- and then stick to it. Before making any holiday purchases, determine a holiday spending limit that is acceptable to you and your spouse or partner. The fig-

ure should include not only the cost of gifts, but expected expenditures for holiday entertainment and entertaining, decorations, travel, and items such as clothing and home improvements. Know as you go. Know what portion of a holiday budget is for gifts and keep a running total of expenditures as you shop. This way, you will have a sense of where you stand at any given point in the shopping season and can adjust accordingly. Be an informed shopper. There are deals galore in the run-up to the holidays and it pays to compare prices and offers before making any purc h a s e s . Check newspaper and online ads as well as retailers' Web sites to determine both where and when you can get the best deal. Make a list and check it twice. Plan your purchases

ahead of time to avoid impulse buying. By having a gift in mind for each person on your list, you will save time, money and headaches. Consider family gifts. If there are a number of families on your gift list, consider giving a single gift -- or gift basket -- that everyone can enjoy. A waffle iron or ice cream maker, for example, is a gift that foodie families will savor for years to come. Give the gift of your time. Some of the most cherished gifts have no price tag attached. Homemade gift certificates for things like car washing, dishwashing, babysitting, lawn mowing, and closet cleaning are always wonderful and welcome. As the giver, just make sure to make good on your promise.


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Holiday shopping minus the crowds For serious shoppers and hardcore bargain hunters, battling the crowds and enduring the endless lines on Black Friday are simply traditions that usher in the holiday shopping season. For the rest of us, the idea of rising at 3 a.m. on the morning after Thanksgiving and heading out into the night to compete for gifts and assorted holiday goods with thousands of zealous consumers is nothing short of a nightmare. But for the

truly squeamish, whose goal is to avoid even the hint of a crowd, there are indeed ways to purchase every gift on your list without encountering hordes of holiday shoppers. The most obvious strategy for avoiding the masses is to shop online. According to surveys conducted by public opinion pollsters Rasmussen Reports and BIGresearch, in 2010 nearly 64 percent of American adults did at least a portion

of their shopping on the Web. Increasingly, people of all ages are opting to shop online not only to find better prices, but because purchasing via the Internet is convenient, fast and enables consumers to perform quick and accurate product and price comparisons. And with so many online retailers offering free shipping during the holiday season, many consumers see little reason to step inside a brick-and-mortar


Friday, November 18, 2011 establishment. However, even diehard eshoppers recognize that there is something to be said for choosing a gift on site and in person; for taking the time to see and touch an object to determine its suitability. Whether you're heading out in search of a dazzling diamond or a set of new

dishtowels, here are some tips for avoiding shopping crowds:

★ Shop all year round.

It's harder to sidestep the throngs of holiday shoppers during the peak season between October and late December. By picking up gifts throughout the year, you can take advan-

Holiday Planner

tage of sales and avoid full parking lots and long lines. What's more, year-round holiday shopping means that your gift budget gets spread out over the course of an entire year rather than a few short months.

★ Shop when the crowds are elsewhere.

The busiest holiday shop-

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ping periods are in the late afternoon or early evening and, of course, on weekends. If you can shop at lunchtime or take a few hours off during the workday, chances are good that stores will be far less crowded. Other good times to shop are during popular televised sporting events or television shows.

★ Shop with purpose. If you know what you're shopping for and have a good idea where to get it, there's a greater likelihood that you can get in and out of the store quickly -- and without blowing your budget on unnecessary items that catch your eye.


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Planning the holiday meal Perhaps the most anticipated aspect of the holiday season is the lavish holiday meal. Many people look forward to the food just as much as they look forward to the festivities. This could be why the average person gains a pound or two from the period of Thanksgiving up until New Year's Day. Planning a holiday gathering and meal can be stressful for hosts or hostesses. There seems to be a lot of pressure placed on the person in charge. However, establishing a wonderful and stress-free meal is possible with a few easy-to-follow tips. ☛ Create a meal concept.

Holiday meals can be traditional or avant garde. There are many options from which to choose, but one thing to keep in mind is to select foods that go together. Those new to holiday hosting may want to stick with items that are well known and expected, such as turkey and trimmings. Those who want to experiment may want to introduce one or two new dishes into the mix. Food choices should be about what your guests will want to eat and not about which items will ensure a spectacle. ☛ Keep preparation time in mind. Another thing to consider

when planning the meal is the amount of time you have for food preparation and cooking. The holidays are a busy time of the year, and work and social engagements may continue up until the eleventh hour. Choose foods that can be prepared in advance and heated on the holiday if you're time-pressed. Or simply choose easy-tomake dishes that won't take much time. ☛ Compile a shopping list. Once foods are selected, review all recipes and make a list of the ingredients you will need. This will serve as a shopping list to take to


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HOLIDAY MEAL THEMES There are plenty of food ideas for the holidays. Here are menu themes for your next event. Appetizers: Host a cocktail party using finger foods as the main course. A ny t h i n g can be turned into finger foods, with small dishes and bite-size spoonfuls to offer a variety of tastes. Asian: Asian fare has become quite popular, and if it's your family's favorite, why not offer Asian-themed menu items for guests. Italian: Family favori t e s, Italian dishes are quite popular and can often easily be increased to feed a crowd. Pastas are quite easy to prepare quickly or in advance. American: Traditional dishes tend to be those foods best associated with American cooking. Chicken, turkey and roast beef are all meals that can be the perfect fit for the holidays.

the store. Also see which items you have on hand in the pantry. Look at expiration dates and be sure that everything is top quality. If in doubt, add it to your shopping list. Make a list of things that can be bought in advance (paper products, coffee, linens, etc.) and other items that need to be checked off closer to the actual holiday. Cross off each item once it is purchased. ☛ Create a timetable. Make a schedule or use a calendar to schedule when each component of the meal and other preparations will be made. This way you ensure you will stay on track and have everything done by the

Holiday Planner

actual holiday. ☛ Ask for help. If you find that time will be short, delegate some jobs to others. For example, if a grandmother or aunt is known for her prized potatoes or pies, ask her to make that item. Some hosts and hostesses turn the holiday meal into a pot luck where everyone is encouraged to bring one item and the host simply provides the main dish. This can cut down on the work involved and make others feel they've contributed to the sentimental holiday meal. ☛ Go easy on yourself. While not everything will work out exactly as you expected, chances are little glitches will not even be

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noticed by guests unless you point them out. And even if they are noticed, these are close friends and family who will not judge small mistakes. ☛ Make time for socialization. Too often holiday hosts and hostesses worry so much about impressing guests with lavish foods and festiv-

ities that they fail to enjoy the actual day with their guests. Leave time to sit and chat and, most importantly, relax. The holidays are a time of enjoyment. Ensuring the meal can be as stress-free as possible will go a long way to helping hosts and hostesses enjoy the season as well.


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Have a safety plan for kids while holiday shopping It's easy for children to get lost in big crowds. According to safety expert Alyssa Dver, founder of the Center to Prevent Lost Children, statistics indicate 90 percent of families will experience losing a child in a public place. Twenty percent have lost a child more than once. This can be traumatizing for children, with 95 percent remembering the trauma of getting lost. Establishing a safety plan with children on what to do should they get lost might help reduce time spent looking for lost kids. ✓ Place your cell phone number in the child's pocket or in his shoe so kids have your number with them at all times. ✓ Take a photo of your child before going out so you'll have the most recent picture, including what she is wearing. Try to dress your child brightly so she will stand out in a crowd. ✓ Instruct the child to look for a "Mommy" for help. Women are less likely to be predators and will often help a child who is lost. ✓ Don't dress your child in something that has his name on it. Strangers can call the name and confuse the child into thinking it's safe to go with them.

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Holidays by the numbers

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Many people, including retailers, have high hopes for the 2011 holiday shopping season. As much of the country and world continues to gut it out through an economic recession, speculation reigns as to just how much consumers will spend this holiday season and whether such purchases will help businesses rebound after another tough year. ● 41 percent of consumers are planning to spend less on holiday and Christmas-related activities, which marks an increase over the percentage of people who planned to scale back for the 2010 season. (Alix Partners) ● Retail sales are expected to rise just 3 percent, which is less than the 4.1 percent gain of last year. (International Council of Shopping Centers)

● Consumers will shop online more and use their mobile devices rather than stepping into malls and other brickand-mortar stores. (Shopper Trak) ● 12 percent of survey respondents said they will use social media to find and share good holiday deals. (Steelhouse Marketing Consultants)

● Internet sales are estimated to grow by 12 percent in 2011, despite the uncertainty of the economy. (Emarketer) ● Shopping on smartphones and tablets is expected to be significant for this holiday season. (National Retail Federation) ● Purchasing a real Christmas tree can be less expensive for consumers. The average dollars spent on a real tree is about $37, while the average artificial tree costs roughly $60. (National Christmas Tree Association) ● Many people plan to shop the day after Christmas. Roughly 20 percent did so in 2010. (International Council of Shopping Centers)


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Friday, November 18, 2011

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Holiday Planner

And The Invitations Go To... You've thrown your fair share of parties over the years, and it never fails. You struggle with the guest list every time. You can't make up your mind who should come and end up inviting everyone you know, leading to a big party involving a lot of time and money. But, it doesn't have to be that way. You don't have to invite everyone you know to your party. You can be more selective, and no, you won't hurt feelings by doing so. Not everyone you know expects an invitation to your party. Just because you say hello to the mailman every morning or see

the same hairstylist every six weeks doesn't mean you have to invite them to your party. They won't expect it, unless they happen to know you really well and spend time with you outside of work. Don't let your guest list dictate your party venue. Choose a venue, find out how many people it can comfortably accommodate and go from there. If you are having the party at your small home, keep the guest list small by inviting your closest friends and family. If you are having the party at a hotel, feel free to go outside of your inner circle and invite more people to your

party, including coworkers and business associates. Consider the type of party you are having as well. If you are planning an intimate dinner party, then you will want to keep the guest list small. Serving dinner to 45 of your closest friends and family will not be easy, nor will it make for the intimate atmosphere you were hoping for. Stick to 10 guests or less. If, on the other hand, you are planning a large buffetstyle party, 45 guests might be ideal. The more, the merrier, right? Once you have a good number in mind, you can determine whom to invite.

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Friday, November 18, 2011 The larger your circle of friends and family, the harder this will be. Not everyone likes parties or will have the time to come, so ask around first and find who is interested or available. Then make out your guest list, starting with your closest friends and family. Try to invite people with common interests to keep the conversion going, and do your best to be fair. Don't invite the neighbors next door and forget the ones across the street, unless you hardly know them. People do talk and will compare notes. Some experts recommend making an A guest list and a B guest list. That way, should someone from the A list turn down your invite, you can replace them with someone from your B list. Be careful if you go this route. Again, people do talk and will compare notes. Someone from the B list might find out you invited them to the party much later than you did someone from the A list and take offense to being your "second choice." To avoid this, stick to one list and invite a few more. Instead of inviting a dozen people to your dinner party, invite 15. That way, should a few not come, you won't have a lot of empty seats at the dinner table. Once you have your guest list set, you can start sending out the invitations. You should do this six to eight weeks before the party, particularly during the holiday season. The earlier people receive an invitation to your party during the holiday

season, the more open their schedules will be and the more likely they will be able to attend. The type of invitations you use depends upon the tone of your party. If you are having a rather informal gathering of your closest friends and family, you may want to reduce waste and invite guests by phone or e-mail. If you are having a formal gathering, paper invitations by mail are probably best. Either way, your invitations should contain all of the pertinent information-date, time, place, directions to the party, etc. You may also want to include an RSVP card or phone number to keep track of who's coming. Don't assume guests that don't respond to your invitation aren't coming. They may have just forgotten to contact you. Find out for certain who is and isn't coming. If you don't, you may end up with several more guests than you thought and have to scramble. Once you have confirmed your guest list, review it and make notes on any special accommodations you will need to provide. You might need to alter the menu for someone who is lactose intolerant or rearrange the furniture for someone in a wheelchair. Do what is necessary to make guests feel comfortable. Creating the perfect guest list takes time, but it is not impossible. Make the effort and you will end up with the type of party you were hoping for.

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Don’t forget to plan ahead for a successful holiday season!


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Ready to Sing? Use the following pages for your caroling visits!

Jingle Bells


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Santa Claus is Coming to Town


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Angels We Have Heard on High

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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O Christmas Tree!

Watch for more carols in our upcoming gift guides!

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Christmas Cards

Sending out Christmas greetings is a tradition that is still common today. Have you ever wondered just how many cards are sent across the country? According to Hallmark Corporate, 1.5 billion Christmas cards, including boxed and individual cards, are purchased and then sent every year in the U.S. This makes Christmas the No. 1 holiday for sending greetings, followed by Valentine’s Day (144 million) and Mother’s Day (133 million).


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Holiday Planner

Candy canes are very popular holiday treats and are often used to decorate Christmas trees. That hooked shape certainly makes them whimsical and able to hang on tree boughs. But candy canes weren’t always the curved and colorful treats they are today. In the 1700s, candy canes were nothing more than straight white sticks of sugar candy used to decorate Christmas trees. A choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral decided that having the ends bent to depict a shepherd’s crook

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Sweet Facts

and passing them out during church services would help keep children quiet. It was not until roughly the 20th century that candy canes acquired their red stripes. Some surmise that the candy cane is shaped like a shepherd’s crook to represent Jesus Christ, who tended to his flock of supporters. Others say that it’s a “J” for Jesus. Regardless of their shape, hundreds of thousands of candy canes are now manufactured and shipped for the holiday season each year.


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Christmas Tunes Challenge Answers Answers: 1) T, 2) F, 3) K, 4) Q, 5) O, 6) E, 7) M, 8) G, 9) L, 10) S, 11) P, 12) R, 13) N, 14) C, 15) J, 16) I, 17) A, 18) H, 19) B, 20) D Well, how did you do? The songs may be familiar, but the songwriters are a whole different matter. You may not have been as familiar with them.

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Primo Party Favors The best parties provide guests with some sort of memento of the occasion, whether a bag of chocolate coins or a Christmas ornament. You will find many services that make custom party favors. You can also make your own. You can turn almost anything into a party favor from small bottles of bubbles to picture frames to candles. Whenever possible, the party favor should reflect the theme of the party. A spa party might call for small bottles of lotion, shower gel and bubble bath, whereas a Christmas party might call for small stockings stuffed with candy or toys.

Personalized party favors are always nice and can be created with ease. Planning to give out chocolate bars? Replace the label with one of your own. You can do this with almost any party favor containing a label, including those bottles of lotion, shower gel and bubble bath. Want to personalize those stockings? Grab a glitter pen and write in the party theme and date. Handmade party favors are another option. You will find a number of projects for making party favors, or you can come up with your own. Do you sing, bake, draw or possess some other talent? Put it to use in your party favors. Make a CD,

bake up some cookies or paint a tile for your party guests. Wish you could make the party favors, but don't have the time? No problem. Have guests make them at the party. Not only will this keep them entertained, but it will allow them to add their own flair to the favors. You could set up an area with supplies for making photo frames, and while your guests are busy doing that, you could take some photos of everyone and print them off for use in the photo frames. When it comes to party favors, the possibilities are endless. Take a look around and see what's available.


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Holiday Planner November 18, 2011