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Tag Archive | "holiday season"

Stress-busting speed-cleaning tips for the holidays


(BPT) – It’s no secret the holiday season can be one of the busiest and most stressful times of the year. What is one of the biggest sources of stress? It’s cleaning on a deadline, especially while guests are on their way.

But with the right plan in place, even last-minute pre-entertainment cleaning can be efficient and stress-free, says Debra Johnson, Merry Maids home cleaning expert.

In an online survey conducted this spring by Toluna, more than half of respondents admitted that most of their cleaning takes place just before guests arrive. With a bit more focus, this preparation can be quick and effective, without stress. After all, the holidays shouldn’t be a race against the clock. They’re about spending time with loved ones.

Johnson shares the following tips to clean smarter, not harder, in the limited time you have before guests arrive.

1. Ready, set … declutter 

The important first step is to declutter rooms. Set a timer if needed to help you stay on track and avoid spending too much time in one room. Put things where they belong, or if they don’t have a home, put them in a room or under beds where no one will see. Once the holiday season passes, you can revisit and declutter those hidden storage areas. Prioritize rooms you use most, so if you run out of time, guests won’t notice an untidy area.

2. Only clean what guests will see 

Join the more than one-third of Americans who don’t bother cleaning rooms people won’t see. You have enough to stress about as the host. Don’t waste your precious time cleaning parts of the home no one will ever see. Simply shut doors to rooms that you want to keep private, signaling to guests not to enter. If you have family staying with you, give guest rooms a once-over, clean the bathrooms that will be used and, of course, the kitchen and living room.

3. Skip the sweep

Don’t spend time sweeping with a dry mop when you can vacuum instead. Vacuuming is far more efficient and faster at removing dust, dirt and other debris from the floors. Keep a portable hand-held vacuum nearby in case a big mess happens, such as a glass breaking during a party. Within seconds, the mess will be gone and you can go back to enjoying the festivities.

4. Speed-clean the bathrooms

All you need to clean your bathroom quickly is a damp microfiber cloth to give every surface a quick wipe-down and a toilet brush to clean the inside walls of the toilet. To freshen it up even more, pour a half-cup of baking soda into the toilet bowl and add white vinegar along with a few drops of your favorite essential oils. Allow the mixture to bubble for a bit and scrub with a toilet brush. Then, voila: your bathroom is clean, shiny and smelling great.

5. Tackle the microwave mess

You know people will want seconds well after the leftovers are put away, so use this quick tip to tackle microwave build-up: Combine lemon juice and water in a microwave-safe bowl and run it for about two minutes. The lemon water will loosen any gunk or food in the microwave for an easy wipe down with a microfiber cloth. Now guests can reheat their leftovers in a clean microwave.

“Hosting a holiday dinner requires prep work, but if you stay on track before anyone arrives, you can spend more time actually relaxing and enjoying their company,” said Johnson.

If you simply don’t have any time to spare this holiday season, Merry Maids has the resources and experts to help. Find a location in your area by visiting www.merrymaids.com.

With the cleaning under control, all that’s left for you to do is to light a few candles, conquer the grocery list and, of course, enjoy your special guests.

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Provide safe sleep apace for baby during holiday travel 


Be sure to have a safe place for your baby to sleep when traveling. An adult bed, like this one, is not safe.

Be sure to have a safe place for your baby to sleep when traveling. An adult bed, like this one, is not safe.

The holidays are a busy time of year, often spent traveling away from home. For families with babies, travel can be especially hectic when trying to remember all of the necessities. One item to put at the top of your list is a safe space for baby to sleep when you’re away from home.

To protect babies this holiday season, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is reminding parents and caregivers to plan ahead and make sure there is always a safe space for baby to sleep—an approved crib, bassinet or pack and play.

“It’s important that everyone caring for the baby, including grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, knows how to put a baby to sleep safely. If everyone knows the simple steps to safe sleep, we can all do our part in preventing an infant death,” said MDHHS Director Nick Lyon.

Tragically, a baby dies nearly every other day in Michigan while sleeping in an adult bed, armchair or couch; with pillows or blankets; or with adults or other children. These deaths are 100 percent preventable with a safe sleep environment.

Michigan families are encouraged to follow these tips for safe sleep during every nap and nighttime routine:

  • Place your baby on their back, in a crib, bassinet or pack and play, with nothing else in their sleep environment.
  • Plan ahead and take a portable crib with you when traveling.
  • Use a firm mattress with a tightly fitted sheet.
  • Keep baby’s sleep space clutter free—no pillows, blankets or toys.
  • Avoid covering baby’s head or overheating. Instead of a blanket, consider using a sleepsack, wearable blanket or footed sleeper to keep baby warm.
  • Remind everyone who cares for your baby, including babysitters and family members, how to keep baby safe while sleeping.

You can make sure every baby is sleeping safe this holiday season. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/safesleep.

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Making A Difference One Project At A Time


 

CTA takes pride in character education in their 300 students. The November character trait they focused on was Kindness and they have rolled what they learned into December – a month where there is much need for kindness and giving.

“The ‘CTA Way’ is being demonstrated in many ways this month,” shared Dean of Students Autumn Mattson. “We strive daily to instill the core value that all of our students can change the world. We are so proud of who our staff and students have chosen to give their time, energy and support to throughout the community during this holiday season. “

Toys For Tots and Coin Drive

11th grade student Cortney Aspinall displays a few of the toys that were collected for Toys for Tots.

11th grade student Cortney Aspinall displays a few of the toys that were collected for Toys for Tots.

Kindergarten students won the coin drive.

Kindergarten students won the coin drive.

The largest project of the season was the school-wide Toys for Tots toy drive combined with a coin drive. The initiative is in its 4th year at CTA. Each class competed to raise the most “positive” change – pennies counted as positive and silver and dollars counted as negative. The kindergarten class raised the most with more than $52 “positive” dollars and the school as a whole raised more than $800. All of the funds raised during the coin drive were donated to the Toys for Tots campaign to be used to purchase additional gifts for children throughout southwest Michigan. The school also served as a WZZM 13 Toys for Tots drop off location and collected 78 toys from students and the community. Kindergarten teacher Lauren Bostic, who assisted in coordinating the Toys for Tots projects shared, “Our hope is that these students will look outside of themselves to see that there is a great need in the community and the world and that other children may not enjoy the ‘luxuries’ they are used to – such as gifts under the tree on Christmas morning.” The coin drive has been going on for more than 4 years and previously the funds went to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

Society In Film students display the many cards they wrote and made for servicemen and women.

Society In Film students display the many cards they wrote and made for servicemen and women.

Spreading Cheer To Those Who Serve

All of the Social Studies classes in the High School wrote Christmas and holiday cards to send to the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans – a long-term care facility for veterans which provides support, health services, clothing, living facilities and necessities. Some cards were handcrafted while others were store-bought, but all of the 80-plus cards that were written expressed gratitude to the servicemen and women for their service and sacrifice to our country. Cards were also written to a group of Southfield-based Army reserve soldiers who are currently deployed in Afghanistan for 10 months. “I wanted to provide the students with an opportunity to be an encouragement to others during the holiday season,” shared Shellie Chilcote, long-term Social Studies substitute teacher whose daughter and son-in-law are both currently serving in the reserves. “We have so much to be thankful for in our country. These veterans and active-duty soldiers have all made great sacrifices that ensure the freedoms we enjoy today.”

 

Charger Basketball Teams Food Drive

Thirty pounds of food have been collected to date by the boys and girls basketball teams to benefit Mel Trotter Ministries in Grand Rapids – and they are still going until Dec. 19. The boys and girls teams are competing against each other in a food drive and it’s all based on food weight. “Our athletes are truly appreciative of the things that they have received from their families and hope to give back to the community,” shared girls basketball coach Steve Washington. “One of our lady Chargers saw this as an opportunity to raise awareness, serve our community and have fun competing with the guys team as well.”

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Postal Service ready to deliver holiday cheer


hol-shipping

Approximately 16 billion pieces of mail, including 750 million packages to be delivered this holiday season

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Postal Service announced it is ready to deliver a lot of cheer—in the form of roughly 16 billion cards, letters and packages—this holiday season.

The Postal Service, the largest e-commerce deliverer, is projecting about 750 million packages will be delivered this holiday season, a 12-percent increase in volume compared to last year.

“Our customers can count on the entire Postal Service workforce to deliver their holiday gifts, cards and letters,” said Megan J. Brennan, Postmaster General and CEO. “With the Postal Service’s unrivaled network and expanded 7-day a week delivery window, we are uniquely qualified to provide the highest levels of customer service and we are confident that’s exactly what we’ll do this holiday season.”

Additionally, the Postal Service is hiring more than 35,000 seasonal employees to help process and deliver increased volumes and meet the needs of its customers. While the Postal Service already delivers packages on Sunday in most major cities, following the success of past holiday seasons, it will expand Sunday delivery operations to all locations with high package volumes beginning Nov. 27. More than five million packages are expected to be delivered each Sunday in December. Mail carriers will also deliver packages on Christmas Day in select locations.

Busiest Mailing and Delivery Days

The Postal Service predicts that Monday, Dec. 19, will be the busiest mailing and shipping day for holiday packages, letters and cards. Thursday, Dec. 22, is expected to be the busiest delivery day for holiday packages, cards and letters. The Postal Service anticipates nearly 30 million packages will be delivered on the peak delivery day alone.

Skip the Trip and Ship Online

Dec. 19 will also be the Postal Service’s busiest day online with more than 7 million customers predicted to visit usps.com that day alone. Customers can avoid holiday hassles by visiting usps.com—the Postal Service’s website that will help make mailing and shipping easier than ever. Millions of customers will skip the trip to the Post Office altogether and take advantage of convenient online shipping this holiday season. Click-N-Ship and other online services allow customers to order free Priority Mail boxes, print shipping labels, purchase postage and even request free next-day Package Pickup from the mail carrier.

2016 Christmas Shipping Deadlines

The Postal Service recommends the following mailing and shipping deadlines:

Nov. 7 – APO/FPO/DPO USPS Retail Ground

Dec. 9 –APO/FPO/DPO Priority Mail & First Class Mail

Dec. 15 – USPS Retail Ground

Dec. 20 – First Class Mail

Dec. 21 – Priority Mail

Dec. 23 – Priority Mail Express

Additional news and information, including all domestic, international and military mailing and shipping deadlines, can be found at the Postal Service Holiday Newsroom at usps.com/holidaynews.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

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Five tips for good gut health during the holidays


Both the stress and the fun of the holiday season can take a toll on gut health. Take extra steps this season and beyond to feel your best. Photo (c) Revelant - Fotolia.com

Both the stress and the fun of the holiday season can take a toll on gut health. Take extra steps this season and beyond to feel your best. Photo (c) Revelant – Fotolia.com

(StatePoint) The holiday season can be one of the most stressful times of the year and you may have noticed you’re more prone to colds and upset stomach when you’re stressed. Stress tends to slow the digestive process. What’s more, 70 percent of the immune system lies in the digestive system, according to findings reported in “Clinical & Experimental Immunology.”

Unfortunately, one of the most stressful seasons coincides with one of the most indulgent. To help, Vincent Pedre, MD, author of the new book, “Happy Gut: The Cleansing Program to Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Eliminate Pain,” is offering useful tips to lessen digestive upset and keep your gut healthy over the holidays.

• Pack healthful snacks. When traveling, people tend to grab unhealthy foods for convenience. Pack nutritious foods like carrots, apples, almonds and frozen yogurt to keep the body strong. Foods like yogurt, which contain probiotics, not only address digestive issues, but are said to help stave off colds. One study found that those who took a probiotic supplement with Lactobacillus rhamnosus, a type of healthy probiotic bacteria, recovered earlier and reported less severe symptoms.

• Eat mindfully. Eating in a hurry is a major no-no for good gut health, and makes you more likely to overeat, since it takes the brain about 20 minutes to recognize when you’re full. Plus, eating quickly can cause gas, acid indigestion and bloating.

“When we stop and really enjoy what we’re eating we’re less likely to overdo it, and we’ll avoid issues like emotional eating,” says Dr. Pedre.

• Relieve stress. Take some “me time.” Maintaining an exercise routine and practicing deep breathing relaxation techniques can do wonders for mental and digestive health, and help alleviate stress’ negative effects on the digestive system, such as gas, acid reflux and stomach cramps.

• Maintain a sleep routine. Get an adequate night’s rest of at least eight hours nightly. Your body and gut like predictability. Plus, staying up late could make you more likely to visit the fridge and eat that piece of chocolate cake that’ll lead to an upset stomach.

• Help your body naturally. Overeating or drinking is easy to do this time of year, but it can cause stomach distress. Check out local natural product retailers, which offer homoeopathic medicines like Nux vomica to relieve nausea, heartburn, acid indigestion or fullness associated with overindulgence of food or drink. While these uses have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration for efficacy, Nux vomica is one of the most popular homeopathic medicines. It’s also easy to take. The pellets are quickly absorbed under the tongue without water, as opposed to being absorbed through the stomach, which may not be functioning at its peak. As a homeopathic medicine, it has no known side effects such as constipation, diarrhea, gas or drowsiness.

To learn about relieving a variety of acute stomach issues, explore the Boiron Medicine Finder app. This free resource, available on Android and iOS devices, allows users to find the right homeopathic medicine for many everyday conditions.

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Top tips for holiday family road trips


PHOTO SOURCE: (c) Nickolya - Fotolia.com

PHOTO SOURCE: (c) Nickolya – Fotolia.com

(StatePoint) The holiday season is one of the busiest travel times of the year, which means congested roads under potentially difficult driving conditions. To keep holiday road warriors comfortable and content on their drives, Autotrader editors offer some of their top holiday travel tips.

• Tune up. Do a quick check on the essentials before you head out. Check the wear and pressure on your tires, and be sure your fluids (oil, coolant and wiper fluid) are topped off. For do-it-yourselfers, you can perform these quick and easy inspections on your own. For added peace of mind, visit your local mechanic or dealership where you can have your car serviced by an accredited technician. Tending to potential issues proactively means you are more likely to avoid having to deal with them while you’re on the road.

• Avoid “are we there yet?” Technology features like built-in screens and DVD players can be saviors on the road, but if your car doesn’t come equipped with these, consider bringing along a handheld device so kids can play games or watch videos. And if technology isn’t your thing, remember that magnetized board games and word games can work just as well. You can also encourage kids to stay occupied by having them help you navigate and by playing DJ.

• Have patience. These days, your car’s navigation tools can offer realistic travel times, but be prepared for the unexpected. Inclement weather, traffic and bathroom requests can set you back. Give yourself extra time to reach your destination.

• Have fun! Holiday road trips can be a great pastime for the whole family while creating wonderful memories. Enjoy the adventure of it!

To learn more, visit Autotrader.com/HolidayDrivingTips.

“Family time this holiday season starts the moment you hit the road,” says Tara Trompeter, managing editor at Autotrader. “A little bit of planning ahead before you get on the road will go a long way toward filling the experience with more fun and laughter for everyone involved.”

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’Tis The Season 


 

Heartwarming treats for the holidays 

(Family Features) The holiday season is never complete without friends and HOL-Heartwarming-treats1family gathered ’round for festive cheer and merriment. Whether you’re the hostess with the mostest or an extroverted elf whose calendar is bursting at the seams, there’s no need to fret over what you’ll serve at your next event—even when you’re pressed for time.

According to the National Confectioners Association, 77 percent of adults include candy in Christmas stockings or gifts, 62 percent celebrate with a candy bowl at work or at home and 62 percent bake with candy or chocolate at the holidays. From candy canes to chocolate Santas, seasonal varieties are nearly endless and emerge long before Rudolph makes his rounds each Christmas Eve.

A nostalgic addition to the candy aisle this winter, the Nestlé Crunch Peanuts Collection inspired by Charles Schulz’s beloved Peanuts gang is fully decked for the holidays, complete with Charlie Brown, Snoopy and all of the characters you love. Hailing from the most influential comic strip of all time, read every day by 355 million people in 75 countries, the beloved characters span across newspapers, Emmy-winning television specials, a full length film and now, Nestlé Crunch chocolates.

Looking for a treat to bring to your next holiday gathering? In just 20 minutes, you can whip up these heartwarming Peppermint Crunch Fudge bars, featuring Nestlé Crunch miniatures. Your guests will love the texture of the crunchy milk chocolate paired with a burst of peppermint flavor. Plus, it’s a recipe so simple even the kids can join in on the baking fun.

For more holiday inspiration, visit VeryBestBaking.com.

HOL-Heartwarming-treats2Peppermint Crunch Fudge

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Total time:  20 minutes

Serves: 25

28 Nestlé Crunch Bar Minis

3 cups Nestlé Toll House Bittersweet Chocolate Morsels

1 can (14 ounces) Nestlé Sweetened Condensed Milk

1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract

1/4 cup crushed candy canes (or peppermint discs), divided in half

Line 9-by-9-inch pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place bars in even layer on bottom of pan.

Place chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk and peppermint extract in medium saucepan over low heat. Stir until chips and milk are melted together. Mix in 1/8 cup crushed candy canes.

Once everything is melted together, spread evenly over bars in prepared pan. Immediately sprinkle with remaining crushed candy canes, pressing lightly into fudge. Cool until firm, then cover with plastic and place in refrigerator to harden completely. Cut into squares and serve.

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