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GIFTS UNDER $40 THAT GIVE BACK!

TIS THE SEASON FOR GIVING AND IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR a truly ‘feel good’ gift here are four that will keep on giving locally and globally beyond the holidays thanks to some terrific companies I’m partnering.  Best yet they are all under $40-so it’s a win win for all!

GIVE LOCALLY WITH THE GREAT AMERICAN MILK DRIVE! 

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You probably don’t know this nor did I but milk is one of the most requested but rarely donated items that food banks ask for each year. AND, this year you can give the gift of a gallon by donating to  The Great American Milk Drive in partnership with Feeding America, dairy farmers and milk companies.  It’s the first nationwide program to help deliver nutrient-rich gallons of milk to hungry families including 16 million children whom are food insecure in the US.  Just go to MilkLife.com/give and enter your zip code to insure milk is delivered to a local food ban near you and they’ll match your donation through the end of the month.  It’s a terrific way to also get kids involved too– just have them go on line with you The Great American Milk Drive to donate the glass of milk they would leave for Santa…Gotta love that!

 

PAY IT FORWARD WITH A HEALTHY ‘N SWEET ACT OF KIND…NESS!

KIND Cube

Next, this idea gives real meaning to acts of kindness and paying it forward to those around you. It’s the limited edition KIND Holiday Cube—It’s filled with 20 of KIND’s nuts and spices chocolate flavor bars plus it’s a healthy alternative to all our holiday indulgences since each only contains 5 grams of sugar or less. Better yet inside the cube, you’ll find a #KINDAWESOME card which you simply hand to a person you see doing a kind act like and that person can redeem the card for three FREE KIND bars, The cube is less then $40…so pay it forward and go on line to be Kind @ Kindsnacks.com !

 

IMAGINE THERE’S NO HUNGER: JOIN YOKO ONO LENNON ‘N HARD ROCK INTERNATIONAL TO HELP MAKE JOHN LENNON’S DREAM COME TRUE!

Imagine 2014 Earbuds

Here’s a a mind blowing stat: more than 16,000 children across the globe die each day from hunger-related causes….But for 7 years now Yoko Ono Lennon and Hard Rock International have teamed up for The Imagine There’s No Hunger Campaign. To date, IMAGINE has helped communities grow enough food to provide more than 9.7 million nutritious meals to children globally through donations and merchandise. This year, you can purchase Hard Rock’s Imagine earbuds which are only $10 and 50% of net revenue goes directly to charity partner WhyHunger.  Makes a great stocking stuffer too! Imagine that!  

 

SAVE A PET WITH THE PAW-FECT GIFT FROM PETSMART!

Pet Smart Logo

Lastly, here’s another staggering stat which is a paw-fect gift for the pet-lover: each year Over 8 million pets that end up in shelters are euthanized because they can’t find a home –That’s about 11000 pets a day. Yikes! And, it’s one of the reasons I saved my doggie Bagels a 4 year old Beagle last year.

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But for those who aren’t rescued and for as little as a $25 donation to Petsmart charities you can help save one pet’s life while they wait for a home by covering things like shelter space, food and vet services.   Plus 90 cents of every dollar goes to help these pets. Woof that! And, For the 11th year in a row, PetSmart Charities earned Charity Navigator’s top 4-star rating and remains in the top one percent of all charities ranked. Woof that! So please visit petsmartcharities.org to make a donation online.

Happy almost holidays!!!

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Sanity-Saving Tips for Ringing in the New Year at Home

Happy 2014!According to a recent survey, for the second year in a row, when the clock strikes twelve on New Year’s Eve, most of us will be ringing in the New Year at home vs. going out. So for those of us whom are part of this trend of entertaining at home I wanted to share some less stress, prep ‘n money saving tips to revel in the New Year.

It’s All About the D WORDS:

DELEGATE ‘N DITCH:  Sani and Mani savers:

Invite help and use easy, prepared foods—cheese plates, veggies ‘n dips, desserts, etc.

Use Disposables when it comes to plates and silverware. For serving food, use things like breads, melons and squashes as bowls and toss when you’re done.

DEPLOY DISTRACTIONS: Keep the focus off the dust ‘n on the peeps in the gathering

  •  Prominently display photos of loved ones ‘n friends coming.
  •  Put some get well cards on mantel (you know, because you’ve been so sick you just didn’t have time to clean.)
  • Create conversation starters: Party napkins like these stimulate conversations and distract from the lack of gourmet goodies.

Conversation starter Napkin 6 stonegableblog.com

DOWNSIZE DRINKS ‘N DIN: Remember you are not Martha:  Simplify, simplify, simplify!

  • NO OPEN BAR – Single serving drinks placed in garden pots filled with ice. (let them melt when party’s over and water plants-tres eco-friendly!
  • Create a special new year’s drink in a large punch bowl.
  • Make it a Spud-tacular din n desert! EZ ‘n Inexpensive!
  • Bake up large baked and sweet potatoes (wrap in tin foil to serve) Put out a variety of toppings for each like:
  • Baked potatoes (main course) – Sour cream, Caviar, Guacamole, Cheese: feta, goat, shredded cheddar or mozz. 
  • Sweet potatoes (dessert) – Ricotta cheese, Honey, Apricot preserves, Marshmallows and chocolate chips

BONUS: GET YOUR KIDS INVOLVED ‘N HAVE THEM MAKE SIGNS FOR TOPPINGS

For more ideas, check out my Pinterest Board – Holiday Entertaining.

Crisis-Free Christmas Breakfast

Countdown to Christmas…1 Day to Go.

Christmas morning may be all about the presents, but you’ve gotta eat too, right? Instead of playing short-order chef, try these easy and fun Christmas morning breakfast ideas.

Cereal Bar

Buy all the favorite family cereals as well as fresh, precut fruit; dried fruits; nuts and chocolate chips. In addition to regular milk, provide flavored options like chocolate and strawberry as well. Then, just let your family have at it! They’ll enjoy the special treat and you’ll keep yourself out of the kitchen. Maybe a little more sugar than you should have for breakfast, but hey, it’s Christmas morning.

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Cook in Advance

Make pancakes or waffles the night before so all you have to do is pop them in the toaster. Pre-cook bacon and sausage and just give ‘em quick zap in the microwave. A quick batch of scrambled eggs and you have a breakfast in a jiffy.

Make it Continental

Get your inspiration from a hotel and provide a continental breakfast with breads, pastries, and fruit. Use festive holiday paper plates so you can clean up quick and get back to the presents.

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Prepare Your Home for Holiday Guests

Countdown to Christmas…2 Days to Go.

Santa will be here soon and so will all your family and friends. It’s a joyous time but it always seems like your house ends up taking a beating. Try some defensive maneuvers to prepare your home for the busy days ahead.

Use Mats: Place absorbent doormats inside and outside al entranceways to limit the tracking of dirt and moisture through your house. Don’t forget about my dirty martini mat from Carpet One if you don’t already have mats. 25% of the proceeds goes to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

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No Shoes Allowed: Keep a basket or decorative bin at key entranceways for all guest to toss their shoes into.

Wax Away: Use furniture polish or wax to keep spill from running all over your wood furniture. They’ll just bubble up so you can easily suck them up with a paper towel.

Dim Lights: Dim lights, draw curtains, and/or close blinds to keep guests from noticing the dust and dirt!

Easy Christmas Baking (Without the Baking Part)

Countdown to Christmas…3 Days to Go.

Well, the day has snuck up on you again this year. It happens to the best of us. The gifts aren’t wrapped yet and all the elves left you hanging on all that Christmas baking. Save some time and energy (yours and the electric kind too) with these easy no-bake goodies.

Peanut Butter and Cream Cheese No Bake Cookies.

Jo and Sue have nailed the sweet craving must haves with these no-bake wonders. Oreo cookie crumbs, peanut butter, cream cheese…you might not get them made without eating half the ingredients so make sure to buy extras.

Find the recipe here.

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York Mint No Bake Cookies

Ready in 5 minutes and with only 4 simple ingredients, there’s no excuse not to try these. And they’re so cute and festive for a holiday party or family gathering.

Find the recipe here.

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Cookie Dough Truffles

Cookie dough (sans eggs) rolled in a ball and covered with chocolate. It’s a little classier than eating out of the bowl and tastes even better. Get step by step instructions here

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Keep Your Sanity…And Your Kids!

 

Countdown to Christmas…4 Days to Go.

Bad KidKids driving you ca-razy? Christmas break from school can leave you with very little of that much-loved thing we call sanity. Corral those wild ones and keep them entertained so you can save what’s left of your sanity.

Craft a Distraction. Set up a table in the basement or playroom for some clever crafts. Have kids create homemade thank you notes that they can use after they open all the gifts. Give older kids glass or plastic ornaments and paint pens and let them create their own ornaments. (This is also a great idea if you’re still getting around to decorating the tree.

Set up an Exchange. Coordinate with your neighbors to watch their kids in exchange for you watching theirs. At least this way, you’ll get a little bit of piece. Just make sure you have a plan for entertaining a large group of kids.

Movie Minus the Madness. Make a movie night a little more special by turning out the lights, popping some popcorn and setting up extra comfy piles of pillows. Hopefully by the end of the movie, the kids will be asleep.

Surprisingly Fun Chores. Kids (especially little ones) can really get into chores if you make it fun. Have a race to see who can make their bed faster or give each kid a Swiffer to use to “fly” around the kitchen collecting dirt. Turn on some music to make chores that bore fun for the whole family.

5 Martini Recipes You’ve Got to Try

Countdown to Christmas…5 Days to Go!

What would the holidays be without some time to kick back, relax and reflect on the past year? And what better way to do all these things than with a lovely martini in your hand. I, of course, will be having my signature dirty martini but there are so many members of the martini family that I thought I’d share a few alternate options.

  1. The tried and true dirty martini. Get the recipe at Delish.comdirty-martini-xl
  2.  Need a little pick-me-up with your relaxation? Hey, why not. You might enjoy an espresso martini. Try this one from the Food Network. Frame 513
  3. Salute the candy cane with a Peppermint Martini. Try this recipe from AllRecipes.com peppermint martini
  4. Go fruity with this Pommangotini recipe from the lovely Rachel Ray’s blog. It’s just so fun to say! Pommango
  5. Forget those gingerbread men. Get that ginger spice sweetness from this holiday martini. 2024801_The12004

What’s your favorite martini? Got a recipe? Do share!