Tag: 121317

Avoid the Holiday Hosting Blues

Hosting family and friends for the holidays is a tall task. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, during the Christmas/New Year holiday period, the number of long-distance trips (to and from a destination 50 miles or more away) increases by 23 percent compared to the rest of the year. While many of those traveling will stay in hotels, many more will enjoy the hospitality of loved ones.
Holiday hosting can make an already hectic time of year that much busier, as hosts must prepare their homes for guests in the midst of holiday shopping excursions, office Christmas parties and social engagements around the neighborhood and at kids’ schools.
Holiday hosting does not have to run hosts ragged in the days leading up to guests’ arrival. The following are a handful of ways to simplify holiday hosting.
Plan menus well in advance of guests’ arrival. One of the more time-consuming tasks associated with holiday hosting is cooking. Hosts who plan their holiday menus in advance can get started on prep work several weeks before guests arrive. Choose dishes that can be prepared in advance and then frozen, so dishes need only be defrosted and cooked once guests arrive.
Plan a night out. Another way to make hosting friends and family for the holidays less taxing is to plan a night out for everyone. In lieu of cooking at home, dine out at an affordable, family-friendly restaurant before taking everyone to a local holiday light display or bazaar. This gets everyone out of the house and allows hosts to showcase their hometown pride.
Rotate hosting duties. The holiday season is full of traditions, and some hosts may feel beholden to tradition and offer to host each year. But family traditions are about getting together, not about getting together in a particular place each year. Families who rotate hosting duties each year can ensure one member of the family does not feel overwhelmed time and time again. And sharing hosting duties means someone new gets to avoid the hectic holiday traveling season each year.
Holiday hosting is an enjoyable yet sometimes difficult task. Fortunately, hosts can take steps to simplify holiday hosting without sacrificing tradition.

Beat the Greeting Card Holiday Rush

Festive greetings sent to family, friends, coworkers, and business associates are an enjoyable element of the holiday season. The first Christmas card was sent in England in 1843. Despite the popularity of online cards and social media posts for other occasions, and a greeting card industry that is declining at a rate of about 5 percent per year, according to an IBISWorld analysis, when it comes to Christmas cards, many people still choose to write out and mail their cards.
The amount of money spent on holiday greeting cards is substantial, accounting for roughly 25 percent of total annual greeting card sales, according to the Greeting Card Association. Around $2 billion per year is spent on the 1.6 billion Christmas cards people send each year.
Although millions of people are still buying boxed cards, signing and mailing them, there is no denying that the process of choosing, addressing and mailing cards can take a considerable amount of time. Streamlining the process and starting card preparation early can make sending Christmas cards that much easier. Here is how to get started.
Choose your card
Photo greetings remain fashionable, particularly among families who may want to show how much their children have grown over the last year. If you haven’t had your family photo taken yet, be advised that professional photographers could be backlogged at this time of the year. If scheduling a sitting for a formal holiday photo is not possible, consider using photos taken during the year with a digital camera or cell phone. Many discount retailers offer photo-quality holiday prints at a reasonable cost that can be produced in a matter of hours.
If you have the forethought to shop end-of-season sales, this is a great time to purchase deeply discounted boxed sets of cards for the 2018 holiday season.
Keep your contact list current
Keeping a digital file of current addresses can make sending cards much more efficient. Update it regularly as people move or life situations change. While it may be more personalized to hand-address each card, sometimes time constraints may not permit that. Printing address labels can save time better spent writing personal sentiments inside the card that family and friends will enjoy reading.
Control your costs
Mailing greeting cards can get expensive. Carefully review your holiday card list and see if anyone can be removed from the list. Opt for electronic greetings for those people on your list who you are not close with, such as coworkers. Reduce postage costs by personally delivering cards to family, friends and neighbors who live nearby.
Beat the rush
Don’t have your holiday cards ready to go yet? Preparing them this weekend ensures your holiday greetings will arrive in plenty of time before Christmas Day arrives.

Festive Tree-Trimming Tips and Techniques

People have visited forests to select their Christmas trees for centuries. While tree sellers conveniently stationed in store parking lots and artificial trees displayed in various retailers have led fewer people to venture into the wilderness, the Christmas tree is still an important component of holiday celebrations.
Long before the spread of Christianity, evergreen plants and trees held special meaning for people during the winter. Boughs and garlands were hung in homes and over doors and windows to repel evil spirits and illnesses. On the winter solstice, the greenery would represent that spring would once again arrive and banish winter’s dreariness.
Germans who decorated trees inside of their homes are credited with starting Christian Christmas tree traditions during the 16th century. Early Americans were late to adopt Christmas trees because early Puritan settlers thought the tradition, as well as carols and other concepts, were Pagan influences. It took the popularity of England’s Queen Victoria and her German Prince Albert appearing around a decorated Christmas tree to eventually win over much of Europe, Canada and the United States.
Trees are very popular today. According to StatisticsBrain, 10 million artificial trees are sold in the United States each year, while 34.5 million real tress are sold annually. Such trees require decorating, and the following secrets and tips can help celebrants do just that.
Prune the tree first. Be sure to shape the tree as desired, since natural trees will have branches sticking out. Wear gardening gloves to avoid being covered in sap.
Position trees away from heat sources, such as fireplaces, vents or radiators, which can cause the tree to dry out prematurely and become a fire risk.
For added safety, anchor a tree to a wall or ceiling, so it will not tumble over onto children or curious pets.
In homage of the first German Christmas trees, decorate with natural ingredients, such as berries and pinecones. Also, use apples, nuts and marzipan candies.
To free up more space for presents, place a narrow tree stand inside of a waterproof planting container. Place the tree inside. This will provide a more streamlined look that’s neater than a tree skirt.
The more lights the better, especially on dense trees.
For a whimsical approach, match the tree decor to home decor and the color of furniture.
Make handcrafted ornaments with the whole family.
Hang the most delicate pieces toward the top where they won’t be disturbed.
Step back and enjoy your handiwork, which will also give you a chance to find any blank spots that need filling in.
Tree trimming is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the holiday season, and there are no rules other than safety guidelines when it comes to decorating.
Christmas Tree Safety Tips
According to the American Christmas Tree Association, Christmas tree fires contribute to $13 million in property damage annually. Many fires involve live Christmas trees that, while beautiful, pose a greater fire threat than artificial trees. Homeowners can take the following steps, courtesy of the ACTA, to prevent Christmas tree fires.

Purchase a fresh tree. When purchasing a live tree, look for one with vibrant green needles that are hard to pluck.
Discard damaged lights. Electrical malfunctions in lights can contribute to tree fires. Before placing lights on the tree, check each strand to see if any lights are damaged or burned out, replacing those that don’t pass inspection.
Place the tree away from heat sources. Christmas trees should never be placed near heat sources, no matter how visually appealing certain spots may seem.
Keep trees away from fireplaces, radiators, candles, heating vents, and lights.
Keep the tree watered. Check water levels and water trees in the morning and night as needed.
Turn lights off at night. Christmas tree lights should always be turned off at night when residents are going to bed. In addition, lights should never be on when no one is home.

2018 Senior Spotlight – Kassidy Downs

Parents’ Name: Karri and Brian Downs
Hometown: La Porte City
Birthday: Nov. 30, 1999
Favorite TV show: The Vampire Diaries
Favorite Movie: 10 Things I Hate About You
Favorite restaurant: Hu Hot
Favorite class: Psychology
Hobbies/Activities: Musical, Show Choir, All State, Fall Play
What is your most embarrassing moment at Union High School? Being yelled at during show choir freshman year because I wasn’t at practice on time.
What was your favorite year of high school and why? Junior year because I glowed up and lost weight.
What is your favorite memory from high school? Musical and play cast parties.
My biggest pet peeve is: Slow walkers in the hallway and
people who don’t try the hardest in every class.
What will you miss most about high school? Being with my friends every day, the musical, and the feeling after we had an amazing performance.
What is the best thing about being a senior? Being the oldest and the wisest (questionable) in the school.
What are your post-high school plans? Hopefully make a lot of money or marry rich.
Your best advice to underclassmen? Try everything at least once (not including drugs and alcohol), be involved in multiple activities. I recommend play, musical, choir, show choir, carolers and HAVE FUN!!

2018 Senior Spotlight – Sophie Lee Selk

Parents’ Name: Robert Selk and Sharon Sebetka
Hometown: Marion
Birthday: Dec. 6, 1999
Favorite TV show: Criminal Minds
Favorite Movie: Spirited Away
Favorite restaurant: Taco Bell
Favorite class: Painting
Hobbies/Activities: Art, Tennis and Speech
What is your most embarrassing moment at Union High School? When Koby Alpers walked in on me going to the bathroom.
What was your favorite year of high school and why? Junior year because it was the easiest by far.
What is your favorite memory from high school? Going to St. Louis with the robotics team.
My biggest pet peeve is: People that chew their nails to nothing.
What will you miss most about high school? The very limited people that I liked.
What is the best thing about being a senior? One more year, One More Year, ONE MORE YEAR.
What are your post-high school plans? I’ll be attending University of Iowa for Mathematics and Engineering.
Your best advice to underclassmen? High school drama doesn’t matter, life will get better.


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