Holiday How To
Decorate a Tree the Right Way
home for the holidays A Special Supplement to The Progress-Index
To Grandmaâ€™s House We Go Make holiday travel less stressful
â€˜Tis the Season for Safety How to prevent holiday break-ins
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for the holidays
How to decorate your tree the right way
Prevent holiday break-ins
Tips to make holiday travel less stressful
Fire safety important come the holiday season
Bake a batch of sweet sugar cookies
Decadent-tasting cookies for healthy eaters
Did you know?
Holiday word find
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How to decorate a tree the right way A beautifully decorated Christmas tree is often the cornerstone of holiday celebrations. A magnificent tree is a wonder to behold. Although homeowners may not have the room for a Rockefeller Center-sized tree, there are several tips that can turn the average Christmas tree into a spectacular sight. There are no set rules as to when the Christmas tree should be erected in the home; each family follows its own traditions. Some people prefer to decorate the day after Thanksgiving, while others wait until the first day of December. Still others wait until Christmas Eve to put up the tree so that children awaken Christmas morning and discover a true holiday wonderland. In keeping with ancient tradition, some put up the tree as close to Christmas as possible and leave it there until January 6, a Christian holiday known as the Epiphany and often referred to as “Little Christmas.” This fulfills the tradition of the “12 Days of Christmas.”
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When you are ready to decorate the tree, here are the steps to follow. 1. The first step in any tree decorating is to find your perfect tree. If you will be putting up a real tree, a visit to the tree farm or a lot selling Christmas trees will provide plenty of options. If you use an artificial tree, now is the time to take it out of storage and assemble it. 2. Allow the tree to rest and “open up” for at least a day, whether it is artificial or real. You do not want branches that are stuck together or scrunched-looking. 3. Straighten out all of the tree limbs, one level at a time. To do so, be sure there is ample room around the tree for you to move around and work. 4. If the tree is not prelit, take out your choice in lights (LED lights are cool to the touch and long-lasting) and check the strings for any burnt-out bulbs or if the lights are working at all. Replace fuses or bulbs as necessary. 5. Plug in the lights, and beginning at the bottom of the tree, begin to place the
lights on the boughs. Having the lights lit will enable you to see the placement and realize if you are leaving too much of a gap between passes around the tree. Try to keep the strands of lights from overlapping or becoming tangled; otherwise it will make for a more difficult job when you take off the lights after Christmas. Also, when joining multiple strands of lights together, try to keep the plugged-in joining points toward the back of the tree so that they aren’t readily visible. 6. Take out the ornaments and assess your stock. Year after year individuals tend to add new ornaments to the mix. If your tree was overflowing and cluttered with ornaments last year and you’ve bought new ones, you may want to toss away some of the older ones that have seen better days. 7. Hang heavier ornaments on lower and thicker branches that will be able to withstand the weight so the larger ornaments will not block the visibility of other ornaments due to sagging branches. Smaller profile ornaments can be hung up top. 8. Any strands of beads, popcorn or garland can be added once the ornaments are in place. Tinsel can also be placed on the tree at this point, though some people prefer to put it on first with the lights. Remember to be safe with a Christmas tree as it can be quite heavy. Be sure it is secured in the stand and that children and pets do not play close to the tree. Some homeowners tie a piece of fishing line to one of the branches of the tree and anchor it to a wall with a hook or nail as an added measure of security. Each night before you go to bed turn off the lights on the tree to safeguard against fires. To achieve that professionally decorated look, you may want to decorate the tree monochromatically, such as red and gold or gold and silver, instead of having too many different colored lights and decorations.
Prevent holiday break-ins Nearly 400,000 burglaries occur annually in the U.S. during the months of November and December, reports the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Being smart about home safety can help prevent your home from becoming a statistic. The holidays are a prime time for thieves because many people travel during the holidays, leaving behind those brand new and expensive gifts and gadgets.
According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, here are a few facts people should know about burglaries: • Most burglaries occur between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., not at night. • The typical burglar is not a professional, but a male teenager who lives within a couple of miles of your home. • Thieves spend an average of 10 minutes in your home. • More than 60 percent of U.S. burglaries are residential. • Thieves tend to visit the master bedroom first because that is the place people tend to keep their valuables. They tend to steal cash and goods like jewelry, silver, and
electronic equipment because they are easy to sell. The National Crime Prevention Council suggests that homeowners should take extra steps to keep their homes and belongings safe by deterring break-ins any time of year, and particularly during the holiday season. • Don’t advertise what you have. Keep expensive decorations and ornaments out of public view. Whatever can be seen from the outside is a prime target for potential thieves. • Keep trash under wraps. Thieves can see first hand what you received for the holidays simply by the boxes you leave at the curb. It’s almost like giving everyone a running inventory of the expensive items
in the house. When you throw out boxes, wrap them in trash bags or simply take them directly to the recycling center. • Ask a buddy to watch your home. If you will be traveling, have a neighbor or friend come over and grab your mail. Also, see if this person would be willing to shovel a little snow should the weather turn while you are away. This gives thieves the impression that someone is home. • Keep a light on. Darkness can work to a thief’s advantage because it camouflages his actions. Setting lights on timers to go off at different times in different rooms also gives the impression that the house isn’t empty. • Buy a security system. Security systems are a great deterrent. Alarms can be programmed to report to a central monitoring system. Also, newer systems can keep tabs on other home issues, such as too much heat or water in a home, indicating a fire or a flood. • Encourage parking in your driveway. While many homeowners usually prefer neighbors or visitors not block their driveways or park in their parking spaces, when you are away, you may want to encourage them to do so. Having different cars in your driveway each day creates the illusion that someone is home. • Check windows and doors. Always double-check if windows and doors are locked if you will not be home (even if you live in a “safe” neighborhood). Also, store ladders or items that can be used to climb up to gain access to the home. • Get a dog or a dog sign. “Beware of Dog” certainly may keep the postal worker on his or her toes, but it also can deter burglars. Dogs can be nuisances for thieves because, if they are trained to protect the home, they make formidable foes. Even friendly dogs can deter thieves, especially if they are loud dogs who like to bark. The noise may keep burglars away or alert neighbors that something is awry.
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Tips to make holiday travel less stressful
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Traveling is a reality for many people come the holiday season. For some, the downside of holiday travel is softened by the prospect of seeing family and friends. For others, holiday travel is far too stressful no matter their destination or who awaits them upon their arrival. While there’s likely no chance you can avoid traveling during the holidays, there are a handful of ways to make your travels less troubling. • Wrap gifts when you arrive, not before you leave. Wrapping gifts before you depart might seem like a great way to get a head start, but when traveling by air it can end up a fool’s errand. Airport security continues to be tight, especially during the holiday season. Security may or may not inspect packages, so save yourself the potential hassle of rewrapping gifts and just wait until you arrive at your destination to wrap them. • Ship gifts directly to their recipients. Another way to reduce some of the stress and cost of holiday travel is to ship gifts rather than to bring them with you. When
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shopping online, choose to ship gifts directly to their recipients rather than having the gifts shipped to your address. If you shop at brick-and-mortar stores, find out if it’s cheaper to ship gifts than to pay airline baggage fees. • Make sure the kids are entertained. Parents know holiday traveling with kids in tow isn’t easy. But kids can more easily handle layovers or holiday traffic if they have something keeping them entertained. If flying, let kids bring along handheld video games or DVD players to keep them occupied, and don’t forget to carry extra batteries or chargers so these items don’t run out of power. When driving, consider renting a vehicle with a built-in DVD player if your own car doesn’t already have one. Holiday traveling is seldom easy, but savvy travelers can employ a few tips to make their travels much less stressful this holiday season.
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• Start early. Another way to reduce the stress of holiday travel is to beat the crowds. Traveling in the wee hours of the morning can help drivers avoid traffic jams, while flying out a day early can help travelers avoid long security and check-in lines.
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Keep a Christmas tree adequately watered throughout the holiday season to reduce the risk of a home ﬁre. The holiday season is a festive time of year. Gifts under the tree and a house filled with decorations help get people in the holiday spirit, but those same decorations can be safety concerns as well. Christmas lights, the Christmas tree and decorations around the home pose significant safety risks during the holiday season, when homeowners must emphasize fire safety as much as they do the festivities. The following are a few tips to ensure your holidays are as fire-free as they are festive. • Inspect decorative lights. Stringing up holiday lights is a tradition for many families, but those lights can pose a significant safety risk. Before getting to work on this year’s lighting display, inspect both the old lights and any news one you might have just purchased. Inspect the lights for bare spots, cracks and frayed wires. Once the lights are strung up, periodically inspect them to see if they’re burning too hot. If they are,
this could increase the risk of fire. • Use only flame retardant decorations. A home is not necessarily an ideal place to hang decorations, as vents and other areas can be hot to the touch, raising the risk of fire when decorations are near. It’s best to keep decorations as far away from vents as possible, and only use flame retardant decorations around the house. • Don’t leave lights on when no one is home. In addition to being a less than financially sound decision, leaving decorative holiday lights on when no one is home is a significant safety risk. Whether making a holiday trip to Grandma’s or a quick jaunt to the grocery store, make sure the holiday lights are not on when no one is home. • Make sure the tree is watered. A dry Christmas tree poses a significant fire risk. When choosing a tree, find one that is freshly cut. A freshly cut tree should feel sticky and its needles won’t break. In addition, a freshly cut tree won’t be as dry, making it less likely to catch on fire. Once the tree is home, immediately
cut a few inches from the trunk so it can easily absorb water. Christmas trees consume a good deal of water, so be sure to adequately water the
NOW OPEN tree throughout the season so it says hydrated and does not become a significant fire risk. • Don’t overdo it with decorative candles. Candles as decorative items are popular during the holidays, but it’s important that homeowners don’t overdo it with candles. Even decorative candles can be dangerous, so limit how many candles you include in your holiday decorations, and never place candles near the Christmas tree. If your home has young children, choose electric candles instead of traditional ones. Kids are curious and they might burn themselves or tip candles over, so steer clear of decorative candles until kids are older. If you do decorate with traditional candles, make sure they are extinguished each night before going to bed.
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Sugar cookies and the holiday season often go hand-in-hand.
Bake a batch of sweet sugar cookies Holiday baking is a tradition that stretches through time. What person doesn’t look forward to the treats the season brings? Cookies are often gifted to friends and family members, and they usually help complete the dessert offerings after the holiday meal. Sugar cookies are an ideal holiday cookie because of their versatility. They can be dressed-up however you see fit, whether iced, covered in sprinkles or enjoyed as they are dunked in hot cocoa. To make successful sugar cookies, try this triple-tested recipe courtesy of Monica Buck and “Good Housekeeping.”
Sugar Cookies Yields: 5 dozen cookies 1 cup (2 sticks) butter (no substitutions), softened ½ cup sugar 1 large egg 1 tablespoon vanilla extract 3 cups all-purpose flour ½ teaspoon baking powder ½ teaspoon salt Frosting (optional) Coarse sugar crystals, silver dragées, holiday decors (optional decorations)
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1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In large bowl, with mixer on low speed, beat butter and sugar until blended. Increase speed to high; beat until light and creamy. On low speed, beat in egg and vanilla. Beat in flour, baking powder and salt until blended. 2. Divide dough into 4 equal pieces; flatten each piece into a disk. Wrap each disk with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or until dough is firm enough to roll. (Or place dough in freezer 30 minutes.) 3. On lightly floured surface, with floured rolling pin, roll 1 piece of dough 1⁄8 inch thick. With floured 3-inch to 4-inch cookie cutters, cut dough into as many cookies as possible; wrap and refrigerate trimmings. Place cookies, 1 inch apart, on ungreased large cookie sheet. 4. Bake cookies 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough and trimmings. 5. When cookies are cool, decorate with frosting if you like; use along with sugars and candies to decorate cookies. Set cookies aside to allow frosting to dry completely, about 1 hour. Store in tightly covered container (with waxed paper between layers if decorated) at room temperature up to 2 weeks, or in freezer up to 3 months.
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Decadent-tasting cookies for healthy eaters Healthy eating is something that may fall by the wayside when the holidays arrive. That’s generally due to the abundance of rich and fattening foods that are undeniably tied to holiday entertaining. Many people claim to gain weight after the holidays have come and gone, and those few pounds accumulated can be difficult to lose once outdoor activities wane due to colder weather. The key is to eat in moderation during holiday festivities and enjoy foods that are full of healthy ingredients — and that includes desserts. This recipe for “Raspberry-Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies,” courtesy of EatingWell.com, plays up flavor without compromising the health factor.
Raspberry-Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies These cookies taste decadent, yet are made with ingredients that have healthful benefits: oats, almonds, fruit and chocolate. The thumbprints are versatile as well — use a different type of filling or different extracts to create a completely different cookie. 1 cup whole almonds 1½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour ½ cup oat flour 2 teaspoons baking powder ¼ teaspoon salt 1 /3 cup light oil, such as safflower or canola 1 /3 cup maple syrup ¼ cup apple juice 1 teaspoon almond extract 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 /3 cup chocolate chips, preferably bittersweet 2 tablespoon raspberry preserves
1. Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350 F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. 2. Process almonds in a blender in 2 batches until finely ground. Transfer to a large bowl and add whole-wheat flour, oat flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk oil, maple syrup, apple juice, almond and vanilla extracts in a medium bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients; stir to combine. Use your hands to knead the dough together; add 1 to 2 tablespoons additional apple juice if the mixture is too crumbly. 3. Form level tablespoonfuls of dough into balls and place on the prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Gently flatten each ball into a disk, then make an indentation in the center using your thumb or a small spoon. Place a few chocolate chips in each indentation, then cover with 1⁄4 teaspoon preserves. 4. Bake the cookies, one batch at a time, until golden around the edges, 15 to 17 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
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DID YOU KNOW?
Christmas carols, religious songs and pop artists’ interpretations of classic holiday tunes are popular come the holiday season. For many families, it is tradition to gather around and share the holiday spirit or tune into these memorable songs on the radio or from your own private collection. Certain songs have long since become favorites among listeners. According to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, these are the 25 most-performed holiday songs.
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• The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) – Mel Tormé, Robert Wells • Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – Ralph Blane, Hugh Martin • Winter Wonderland – Felix Bernard, Richard B. Smith • White Christmas – Irving Berlin • Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! – Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne • Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer – Johnny Marks • Jingle Bell Rock – Joseph Carleton Beal, James Ross Boothe • I’ll Be Home For Christmas – Walter Kent, Kim Gannon, Buck Ram • Little Drummer Boy – Katherine K. Davis, Henry V. Onorati, Harry Simeone • Sleigh Ride – Leroy Anderson, Mitchell Parish • It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year – Edward Pola, George Wyle • Silver Bells – Jay Livingston, Ray Evans • Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree – Johnny Marks • Feliz Navidad – José Feliciano • Blue Christmas – Billy Hayes, Jay W. Johnson • Frosty The Snowman – Steve Nelson, Walter E. Rollins • A Holly Jolly Christmas – Johnny Marks • I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus – Tommie Connor (PRS) • Here Comes Santa Claus (Right Down Santa Claus Lane) – Gene Autry, Oakley Haldeman • It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas – Meredith Willson • (There’s No Place Like) Home For The Holidays – Bob Allen, Al Stillman • Carol Of The Bells – Peter J. Wilhousky, Mykola Leontovich • Santa Baby – Joan Ellen Javits, Philip Springer, Tony Springer • Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney (PRS)
did you know?
Many Christmas traditions are older than some celebrants might think. The tradition of lighting up a Christmas
tree, for example, dates back to the days before Christmas lights. Before electric-powered twinkle lights were invented and even before electricity was discovered, people used actual candles to adorn the Christmas tree. As one can imagine, having an open flame next to a driedout tree made for some fast fires. That’s why it was customary to keep a bucket of water next to the tree as well. As if fire wasn’t enough, the tinsel used to decorate trees was made from strips of silver and even lead — something that is now known to be a health hazard to adults and children alike. Although we’ve come a long way from candles and lead, trees that are overly dry paired with lights that have frayed wires can just as easily lead to fires. Plus, plastic
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tinsel can be a choking hazard for children and pets. One Christmas staple that has lost its status as a safety hazard is the poinsettia plant. Poinsettias are a tropical plant that have become a fixture during the Christmas season. It has long been thought that poinsettias are poisonous to people and animals. While there is some toxicity to the plant, it would require the ingestion of hundreds of leaves to get a toxic dose of a plant’s poison. Ingestion may simply cause a case of vomiting or diarrhea instead. But poinsettia leaves are said to have an unpleasant taste, so one bite and most children and animals will probably turn away. Perhaps one of the biggest hazards come Christmas — both then and now — is not having enough turkey or eggnog to go around for holiday guests!
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for the holidays
Home for the Holidays There are many songs that are traditionally sung come the holiday season. They are played in stores, on radio stations or in the comfort of people’s homes. One of the more popular holiday songs is “(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays.” This song was published in 1954, with music by Robert Allen and lyrics by Al Stillman. Although many people have recorded the song, it is perhaps best known for the original version from Perry Como. Como recorded the song twice, first in 1954 and then five years later, when he used a different musical arrangement. Another well-known version was done by the brother-and-sister recording duo The Carpenters, which was featured on their 1984 holiday recording, “An Old-Fashioned Christmas.” Since then, the song also has been covered by Nora Jones, Cindi Lauper and Carly Foulkes (the T-Mobile girl) for a T-Mobile promotional event in Chicago. Nearly 60 years old, the song has stood the test of time and can be heard as part of anyone’s caroling repertoire. You also can enjoy the tune by singing it from the lyrics here.
“(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays” Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays For no matter how far away you roam When you long for the sunshine of a friendly gaze For the holidays, you can’t beat home, sweet home I met a man who lives in Tennessee and he was headin’ for Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie From Pennsylvania folks a’ travelin’ down to Dixie’s sunny shore From Atlantic to Pacific, gee, the traffic is terrific Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays ‘Cause no matter how far away you roam If you want to be happy in a million ways For the holidays you can’t beat home, sweet home I met a man who lives in Tennessee and he was headin’ for Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie From Pennsylvania folks a’ travelin’ down to Dixie’s sunny shore From Atlantic to Pacific, gee, the traffic is terrific Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays ‘Cause no matter how far away you roam If you want to be happy in a million ways For the holidays you can’t beat home, sweet home For the holidays you can’t beat home, sweet home
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for the holidays
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