Friends and family members who love to cook are a blessing. Not only do they spoil us with their culinary creations but they’re also exceedingly easy to buy for. Here are four great gifts that are sure to please the cook on your Christmas list.
1. A gourmet food basket
Give them a food basket assembled especially for them, with their favorite cheese, spices, oils, wine — you name it. Alternatively, you might put together a basket of local or artisanal products or even one that plays upon a unique theme; say, orange food products, if this is their favorite color, or Italian foods if they happen to have a trip to Rome coming up.
2. A personalized kitchen accessory
Enlist a local shop or craftsperson to add a personal touch to the kitchen item you’re giving. It could be a thoughtful phrase, a funny remark or simply the person’s name. You can personalize a wide range of items, including aprons, oven mitts, cutting boards and serving trays.
3. A specialized cooking course
Have you spotted a penchant for cake making, sushi rolling or Moroccan cuisine in your favorite foodie? Enroll them in a specialty course so that they can cultivate their passion into an art form.
4. Assorted spices
If the cook on your list has an adventurous streak, get them an assortment of rare spices to stimulate their creativity — and their taste buds! If you’re traveling abroad before the holiday season, consider picking up some out-of-town flavors along the way.
Consumers give high ratings to mail-order mattresses
Mail-order mattresses were introduced to the market in 2007 with the original Bed in a Box but since then, they are everywhere.
The idea started to go mainstream in 2014 with popular names like Casper and Tuft & Needle entering the market, according to Consumer Reports.
Now, nearly 200 such companies vie for a piece of the boxed-mattress market, which commands 12 percent of sales. The market is still dominated by the traditional retail players such as 1-800-Mattress and Mattress Firm.
The majority of beds shipping today come in relatively small boxes in which a memory-foam mattress has been tightly compressed and molded to fit.
Most of the bed-in-a-box companies offer generous trial periods – up to 120 days.
If you don’t like a mattress purchased at a retail store, the store comes and picks it up. But, if you don’t like a boxed bed, returning it can be hard, depending on policy. Tuft & Needle, for example, does not ask you to send it back. Instead, you donate the bed to charity. But, if you buy their bed from another online merchant such as Amazon, then you have to ship it back. This involves wrapping it in shipping plastic, using a vacuum to suck the air out of the plastic, and creating a box.
Price-wise, Tuft & Needle is one of the lowest-cost providers, offering a queen size for around $575. More upscale names like Sapira would cost $1,275 for the same size. Meanwhile, similar offerings can be found in the same price range in retail stores.
Air-based beds are also popular and can be shipped back more easily.
While there are a few specialty vendors, most providers advertise only one model that is meant to please the vast majority of sleepers regardless of their weight, build or preferences. Despite the limitation, however, many mattresses tested did indeed perform at a level of Good to Excellent during consumer testing, and the top-rated brands also scored highly among small, large, and tall sleepers.
Winter car care: five ways to keep rust at bay
It’s no secret that road salt is terrible for our cars. It does a great job melting ice and keeping roads safe during the winter, but it’s also a major catalyst for rust. Of course, putting your car in storage until the return of warmer days is the best way to keep it safe from winter’s harsh effects, but if that isn’t an option, here are some ways you can help prevent rust from taking hold in the cold:
1. Have your car professionally rustproofed. This is especially recommended if you frequently park indoors. Drastic temperature variations, especially combined with the humid air in garages, provide rust with the perfect environment to thrive.
2. Slow down and keep your distances. It’s the best way to minimize contact with road debris (e.g. salt, sand, rocks from other cars). Your paint job will thank you!
3. Protect the body. Install mud flaps, a grille guard (clean it often to avoid an accumulation of road salt, which could scratch the paint), or clear plastic strips to protect the lower body frame.
4. Wash your car often. It’s important to clean your vehicle periodically during the winter—even though the results won’t last long!—to get rid of calcium deposits and other dirt. A dirty car is more likely to rust. Make sure to thoroughly dry everything off, and avoid washing your car when temperatures fall below -14 °F.
5. Apply surface wax. This will protect your paint job, but you’ll need to act fast: the procedure requires outdoor temperatures above 50 °F to be successful.
How to stop trying to do it all and actually relax over the holiday
For many people, the pressure of trying to create the “perfect” Christmas can make the season seem daunting and stressful. If you want to relax and enjoy the holiday as much as your family this year, you need to resist some of the pressure. Here’s how to do it:
• Say no. Around the holidays, it can feel like all your free moments are booked. Instead of accepting every invitation you get, stay home on occasion. Use such evenings to make cookies and watch Christmas movies in your pajamas, or order take out and eat in the living room.
• Outsource. If you’re hosting dinner, instead of cooking a multi-course meal yourself, ask your guests to bring some of the dishes. Or better yet, have your entire event catered. You’ll enjoy your party that much more if you’re not in the kitchen the whole evening. Your guests will also be happy to spend more time with you.
• Think quality not quantity. To relieve the stress of needing to buy the perfect gift for everybody on your list, organize the type of exchange with your family or group of friends in which everyone only buys for one other person. Picking names from a hat tends to be the best way to arrange these types of gift exchanges.
At home with your kids and spouse, consider buying only one bigger gift the whole family can enjoy instead of a bunch of smaller presents. It’ll save you the time and effort normally involved with buying multiple presents.
This year, make a pact with yourself and your loved ones to keep Christmas simple. A lighter, more carefree holiday is the best way to ensure that everyone gets to relax and enjoy the spirit of the season.
Let your kids plan Christmas?
If you’re hosting your family’s holiday party this year and you want your kids to be involved, why not let them plan Christmas dinner? If they feel like they’re in charge, they won’t even realize they’re helping. Here’s a suggested itinerary to help orchestrate the event from conception to execution.
One month before
Have your kids look through cookbooks and decide what to serve on the big day. Don’t worry if they choose something unconventional—it could be a hit and become your family’s favorite new holiday tradition.
Three weeks before
Put your Christmas tree up, string it with lights and let the kids go hang the ornaments. Bring out the rest of your decorations and let them decide where everything goes this year.
Two weeks before
It wouldn’t be Christmas without the smell of gingerbread in the air. Have them bake and decorate cookies to give to their teachers as gifts.
One week before
If your kids are old enough to use scissors on their own, teach them how to wrap gifts, and make it their job. Just be sure they don’t tell grandma what you got her.
Five days before
Let them create a centerpiece for your holiday table. Even if you end up with a Star Wars themed Christmas, it’ll be unique and they’ll love it.
Three days before
Write a list of everything you need to make the dishes the kids picked and head to the market as a family. Give each child one or more ingredients to look out for.
The big day
Let your kids pick the holiday music, set the table and greet your guests.
Five reasons to adopt a black cat
Did you know that black cats are adopted far less often than cats of any other color?
Yes, even today, ancient continue to govern people’s choices. Every year in animal shelters across the country, numerous black cats are rejected solely based on the color of their fur. Are you thinking about adopting a new feline friend? Here are five good reasons to go against the grain!
1. Certain cultures consider black cats good luck.
3. If you often dress in black, you won’t have to worry about visible cat hair on your clothes.
4. Come Halloween, your black cat becomes the perfect accessory.
5. According to a study published in the scientific journal PLOS Genetics, black-haired felines live longer.
And what about dogs?
Black dogs are also left rejected in animal shelters and adoption centers more frequently than those of any other color. One hypothesis is that their darker shade makes it difficult to distinguish their features in the photos that accompany their description online or in local newspapers. Visit them in person to make their acquaintance!
Christmas gift ideas for dogs and cats
Want to spoil your furriest family members this Christmas? If you’re looking for something to put under the tree for Mittens or Fido, here are several gift ideas your pets will appreciate.
For your dog
Does your pup get chilly? A doggy snowsuit will keep him warm from head to tail. Add some booties to protect his paws from the salt on the ground and he’ll be all set for long winter walks.
What about indoor fun? There’s nothing better for keeping your pooch occupied while you’re at work than an educational puzzle that requi¬res that he navigate assorted compartments, lids, knobs, ropes and flaps to win hidden treats.
For your cat
If your cat loves lounging in the sun, she’ll probably enjoy a window perch. Held up by suction cups, this shelf-like device is likely to quickly become your feline’s napping spot of choice.
If Mittens needs to shed a few pounds, a cat exercise wheel will help keep her in shape.
Or, if you have an adventurous cat that likes to wander near and far, a collar with GPS will allow you to keep tabs on her.