“Ornamentinis” – Martinis Served in Ornaments

HGTV.com created some fun and festive martini drinks that can be served in ornaments! Naming them “Ornamentinis”, these mixtures will add some fun to the holiday parties when it comes to serving guests. The following recipes are good for serving two, so plan accordingly when serving at a party. To see video demonstrations, visit the original article.

Sassy Snowball Martinis

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1 cup lemonade
  • ½ cup blue Curaco
  • Cotton candy
  • Coconut flakes

Mix the first four ingredients in a pitcher. Place a bit of cotton candy in the martini glass, then sprinkle it with coconut flakes to imitate the snow. Pour the cocktail into a clear ornament, placing the cap once it’s full. Lay the ornament in the martini glass, and you can place them in the fridge until it’s time to serve them. Once you’re ready to serve them, pour the mixture out of the ornament and over the cotton candy. It will melt like snow, and then you can drink it up!

Merry Mint-inis

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of gin
  • ½ cup lemonade
  • ¼ cup of lime juice
  • 1 tbsp Crème de Menthe
  • 1 tbsp peppermint syrup

Mix all the ingredients together. Pour the mixture into the clear ornaments. You can place the ornaments in a muffin tin for holding them upright. Place the caps on the ornaments and lay them in ice until you’re ready to serve.

Bright and Booze Sippers

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of vodka
  • ½ cup of cranberry juice
  • 2 tbsp raspberry syrup

Mix the ingredients together, then pour the mixture into bulb-shaped ornaments. A muffin pan can work well for holding the ornaments upright. Place the caps on the ornaments and hang them from your tree for fun!

Photo credits to HGTV.com.

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10 Ways to Give Back This Season

Christmas-themed Wallpaper1. Drive-Thru – Pay It Forward

Next time you go through the drive-thru for your lunch or coffee, offer to pay for the car behind you. It’s a great, small gesture that can really make someone’s day and even start a chain reaction with the rest of the people in the drive-thru. You never know when someone needs a little light, and having good karma is never a bad thing!

2. Add to Tips

If you typically give your waiter or waitress 10% or 15% for tips, try increasing it to 30%-50%. Leave a little note on the receipt, wishing them a Happy Holidays for their whole family, and to enjoy the merry season.

3. Recurring Donations

Even making a regular donation every month to your favorite charity or organization is a great way to give back. Even if it’s as small as $5 a month, the numbers add up and makes a wonderful difference in helping those in need.

4. Volunteer at Local Animal Shelter

This is a perfect activity for the family and all animal lovers alike. Shelters always take helping hands. Usually pets need to be walked, or just interacted with. Before you go, check with your local shelter for donations and bring some dog or cat food, beds, and any other supplies they need.

5. Nursing Home Visits

Some families either can’t make it to their elderly relatives or choose not to during the holiday season. Cheer up some people by visiting the local nursing home. Check to see if it’s okay to come by and bring any sort of treats. If you have kids, volunteer to bring your kids and also bring some holiday cards for the folks. Young children always excite those living in the nursing homes.

6. Teach Kids About Giving

It’s important to instill the values of giving to and helping those in need. Allow them a certain amount of money and let them pick a charity. Or, participate in a toy drive and let the kids pick out a toy for a child in need.

7. Amazon Smile

Amazon Smile is program through Amazon where they help donate money to charity. When you sign up, you get to choose the charity you want to help, and a portion of your purchases goes towards that charity every single time you buy something from Amazon. Make sure to use smile.amazon.com instead of the normal amazon.com when you purchase.

8. Gift Cards

Stock up on a variety of $5 or $10 gift cards and hand them out to random people you encounter: bank teller, cashier, barista, dentist assistants, office admins. Add a little Happy Holidays not and leave it with them.

9. Write Letters to the Military

Get the kids involved and allow them to write holiday letters to active military members that are serving overseas for the holidays. Let them write cute little notes and draw pictures to the men and women serving their country.

10. Thank Local Police and Firefighters

Check with your local police and fire department to see how many members of the forces are there at a given time. Then, you can drop off baked goods and treats to thank them for their service, especially those that work on the holidays.

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Perfect Gifts on Amazon for Everyone

birthday, christmas, giftIf you’re looking for some last-minute gift ideas with just a week and a half left until Christmas, here are some awesome ideas you can get all from Amazon.

1. Set of 140 colored gel pens
Who –
adult/child doodler
Price $19.99

This set includes 31 glitter, 27 neon-glitter, 25 metallic, 13 standard, 4 swirl, 20 pastel, and 20 neon pens.

2. Lavender bath salts
Who –
any who need stress relief
Price ­– $11.49+

You’ll have the option of 3 sizes.

3. State-shaped cutting board
Who –
any home owner
Price – $16.42+

Available in every state, including Puerto Rico.

4. Wooden stamp set
Who –
creative kids
Price $9.99

Great to get crafty kids involved of all ages (with washable ink).

5. The Food Lab
Who –
obsessive chefs
Price – $29.97

Teaches home cooking by the sciene.

6. Seat gap filler
Who –
car owner
Price – $19.99

This set includes a pack of two.

7. Handheld musical toy
Who –
groovy babies
Price – $7.64

It plays Mozart, Chopin, and other composers without annoying parents.

8. Dead Sea mud mask
Who –
skincare improvers
Price – $14.95

Ingredients include mineral-rich dead sea mud (helps remove dirt from pores) and shea butter (moisturizes skin).

9. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
Who –
interested readers
Price – $8.02

A brief overview on the mysteries of the universe for those who don’t even understand science.

10. Ferrero Rocher Hazelnut Chocolates
Who –
anyone who likes chocolate
Price – $14.08

This gift comes with 48 pieces of chocolates.

11. Pair of binoculars
Who
– bird peepers, outdoor enthusiasts, spies
Price – $28.99

Could be a gag gift or for someone who is going on a trip soon.

12. Portable charger
Who –
the battery wasters
Price – $39.99+

Takes approximately 10-20 hours to charge depending on the cord. It can charge an iPhone 7 seven times, Galaxy S6 five times, and an iPad mini 4 times.

13. Air purifier
Who –
anyone
Price – $82.99

The HEPA filter captures dust, pet dander, mold spores, and pollen, and neutralizes odors.

14. Exploding Kitten card game
Who – a
ll ages
Price – $19.99

Essentially, Russian Roulette except with exploding kittens.

15. Magnetic wristband
Who –
home improver
Price – $10.65

Allows for easy nail and other metal item access.

16. Electric griddle
Who –
home cooks
Price – $35.56

A non-stick griddle with a removable drip tray to catch grease and such.

17. Portable padded seat
Who –
sports fans
Price – $39.46

Available in 8 colors, it transforms their seat for more comfortability.

18. Gnome-killing garden statue
Who –
cat-loving gardeners
Price – $25.95

A cat eating some gnomes, it works for the comedic side of your gardener.

19. Balsam- and cedar-scented candle
Who –
those who like scents
Price – $19.80

A Yankee Candle that’ll burn up to 150 hours, spreading holiday cheer until its gone.

20. Ukulele Starter Kit
Who –
any who don’t know the ukulele
Price – $49.99+

It is available in 6 different finishes.

21. Balance board
Who –
those looking for core strength
Price – $25.99

Improve stability and posture, as well as build strength and muscle.

22. Stainless steel nesting bowls
Who –
Cookers
Price – $24.95

Comes in a set of 6 different sizes.

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5 Ski Homes to Hit the Slopes

adventure, cold, daylightIf you and your family enjoy skiing, or want to get into the habit, these 5 homes are amazing locations to purchase. While they may be a little bit pricey, owning your own ski home has a lot of perks and potential:

  • Convenience

  • Vacation home

  • Extra rental income

15280 Wagon Rd, Jackson, WY

Price – $2,395,000

This 4-bedroom luxury home is also known as the Tall Timber 28. A more modern style, it’s decorated by large, 20-foot ceilings and an open floor plan that’s equipped with a lot of deck space. Part of the Snake River Sporting Club community, you’d have access to the Snake River and 3.5 million acres of national forests. Your membership comes with access to:

  • Snowshoeing

  • Cross-country skiing

  • Skating

  • Heli-skiing

  • Fly-fishing

  • Horseback riding

  • Canoeing

  • Golfing

19150 Glades Pl, Truckee, CA

Price – $6,500,000

Part of a ski-in, ski-out community, this home comes with 6,000 square-feet of home. You’ll have a chef’s kitchen, wine cellar, exercise room, ski deck, game room, 3-car garage, and hot tub. With a nearby Ritz-Carlton, you’ll have access to those amenities like their spa and community clubhouse with:

  • Pool

  • Game room

  • Lounge

  • Sport court

33825 Meadow Creek Dr, Steamboat Springs, CO

Price – $4,495,000

A mountain contemporary home located at the Alpine Mountain Ranch and Club, it makes use of its use of space with indoor and outdoor amenities. Not to mention the floor-to-ceiling windows. You’ll have access to 900 acres of wildlife preserve and open space.

16 Cowboy Heaven Spur Rd, Big Sky, MT

Price – $7,500,000

Located above the ski run of Moonlight Basin Residential Community, you’ll be able to take advantage of 5,800 acres of slopes. The rustic home comes with large timbers and two larger stone fireplaces. A 3-story home, it has 7 bedrooms, a large living space, kitchen, game room, dining area, theater, and ski room.

377 Whitetail Dr, McCall, ID

Price – $1,750,000

This ski home is a private compound located at a little-known outdoor mecca. With 320 base inches of snowfall every year, it’s one of the best skiing and snowboarding locations in the state. With four en suite bedrooms, it also has a living area, chef’s kitchen, and loft office. With a studio apartment over the 2 large garages, you’ll have enough room for family and equipment storage. A fenced yard, enormous deck, fire pit, and hot tub makes it the perfect winter getaway.

For more information on these homes, visit Realtor.com to see the listings and original article.

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Gift Baskets for Food Lovers

Brown Woven Basket Beside Clear Bottle on White Table ClotheAs we get older, we find it harder and harder to buy for those family members who tell us they don’t want anything for Christmas. Whether it’s a sister, friend, or parent, these gift baskets could help answer your gift-giving struggles.

1. New Chef

If you know someone who’s just gotten a new home or apartment, getting them a gift with the cooking essentials could save them on dinner nights. Create a cute basket with all the basic tools, gadgets, spices and gourmet condiments a new home owner might need.

2. DIYer

Know someone who loves to tackle projects? Find a basket made of mesh, chicken wire, or a galvanized metal. Pick some vintage-inspired tools, gadgets, and include protein and carb-filled foods to keep them working hard on their projects.

3. Baker

Support your friendly baker with chef-quality ingredients to help them with their baking passion. Pick a fan favorite baking item: pancakes, cupcakes, cake, pie. In their basket, include the mix topped with condiments and tools to perfect their dish.

4. Entertainer

This basket is perfect for someone who enjoys having company. Add glass containers with a bunch of finger food desserts. Provide different cookies, popcorns, and pretzels in decorative snack bags to add a little character to the basket.

5. Film Buff

This is the perfect gift for a stay-at-home movie night or for those who like to go see movies in the theatres. Pack the basket with sweets, snacks, or gift cards and purse-sized snacks for a night at the movie.

6. Tea or Coffee Enthusiast

A basket for the coffee or tea lover in your life can help with variety for a gift. Either choose a full tea cup set or a single cup, and add any gourmet ingredients, coffee, or tea bags to give them a variety of options.

7. Wine or Beer Connoisseur

Use a picnic basket as your choice to wrap it and pick a favorite wine or beer for your friend/ family to try. Pair it with the appropriate snacks like flavored nuts, crackers, or cheeses.

For more basket ideas, check out the original article at HGTV.com.

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Southern California Fires FAQs

accident, action, dangerThe fires of Southern California are spreading fast. Officials have made more than 100,000 calls for people to evacuate, according to the San Diego Tribune. From Ventura to San Diego County, it’s important that any questions are answered, and everyone is staying safe and taking the proper precautions.

How can I help?

For now, check with American Red Cross to see how you can help people that are suffering loss from the fires. In the coming days and week, more organizations will get involved and you’ll be able to find them within your community. You can also start an organization yourself to collect things like clothes, home items, money, and food to help the victims of the fires.

How does this affect the air quality of those living near the fires?

In areas where there is heavy smoke in the air, the air quality can be unhealthy for anyone regardless of your current health. Other areas may smell like smoke, but there is not a heavy air quality. This could be unhealthy for sensitive people that may have asthma and other respiratory difficulties. Limit any outdoor and physical activity.

Will a dust mask work?

Unfortunately, a dust mask that you get from the hardware store won’t be enough protection from the smoke. They are designed to trap larger particles like sawdust, but they won’t protect your lungs from small particles in wildfire smoke. The most effective protection will be a “particulate respirator”.

Who can help evacuate my pet, and how can I help?

The San Diego Humane Society is providing animal evacuation. The best way you can help your animals are to take any pets with you. If you can’t, call the San Diego Humane Society at 619-243-3466 and they can help you shelter your pets and livestock. The Del Mar Fairgrounds and the San Diego Polo Fields in Del Mar are housing large animals. If you are bringing a horse, they request you also bring hay, halters, and buckets.

The Fairgrounds needs volunteers to help handle the horses. Call 858-755-1161 if you’re interested in volunteering.

Stay safe during power outage.

If there is a power outage, turn off and unplug any unnecessary electronics. This will keep them from being damaged if there is a surge or spike when the power comes back on. Try to leave one light on in the home to know when the power does come back on. Also, use flashlights instead of candles to help protect your home.

If there is a downed power line, stay away from it and report it to 911.

My home is damaged. Now what do I do?

Most homeowner policies help cover the damage caused by wildfires. If your home is uninhabitable, the insurance policy helps cover the costs of living somewhere else while it is being rebuilt or repaired. Any damaged cars or vehicles can be covered under the “comprehensive” portion of your auto insurance policy.

Having a list of your household items lost can help you cover expenses in your claim. If you don’t have a list, try to document as much as you can remember in great detail. Don’t forget to keep any receipts of any costs like temporary housing.

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Gifts for Seniors Who Live Alone

aged, cane, elderSeniors who own their own homes often don’t want to downsize to a smaller house. There are too many memories echoing inside the walls. It’s the house where they raised their children, ate countless family meals, and shared both good times and bad with the people they love. Making the decision to grow older in a house presents various challenges to senior citizens. As we grow older, we experience more aches and pains. We can’t do the chores we used to do when we were younger. So, if you have a senior loved one in your life, read on for gift ideas that will make their lives a little bit easier.

Housecleaning Service

A gift that keeps on giving is the gift of house cleaning. Many seniors no longer have the ability to mop floors, dust, clean windows, and perform all the other housecleaning tasks that go along with owning a home. The physical exertion it requires is sometimes too much for aging bodies. Your senior loved one just might appreciate the gift of housecleaning services. Whether you pay to have the house cleaned once a week or every couple of days, the house will stay clean and in good condition.

Lawn Service

Mowing lawns in the heat of summer is dangerous to older people and those with serious medical conditions. The lawn still needs to be maintained. To help your loved one, hire a lawn care service to keep the yard in excellent condition. Consider a month of springtime lawn maintenance as a possible gift. The national average to mow and maintain a lawn is $148. Your loved one won’t need to worry about dragging out the old lawn mower in 100-degree weather. Instead, she can watch from the window as someone else cuts the grass.

Adaptive Clothing

Does your elderly loved one suffer from arthritis? Give her the gift of adaptive clothing, a type of clothing that is specifically created for those with disabilities or decreased mobility. Elderly people will appreciate receiving clothing featuring magnets in place of buttons, extra zippers, and other modifications that make it easier for a disabled person to dress and undress.

Motion Detector Lights

Seniors who have poor vision will love receiving motion detector lights for the home. Each time your loved one enters a dark room, the motion detectors automatically turn on the light. As soon as your loved one leaves the room, the light turns back off. These types of lights are perfect for seniors who have difficulties maneuvering throughout rooms.

Gift of Time

Spending time with an elderly loved one is a priceless gift. Seniors who live alone often feel lonely: a senior’s spouse may have passed away, family members and good friends might die, or move to another city. Instead of spending tons of money on expensive gifts, give the gift of yourself. Take your loved one out to lunch. Go to a movie or visit the park. They’ll appreciate it more than a luxury handbag or new TV.

Bathroom Safety

The bathroom is a dangerous place for older people who have problems with mobility. Wet floors can easily cause them to slip and fall. When you’re elderly, a fall can lead to serious, life-altering injuries. Protect your elderly loved one by buying bathroom accessories that help seniors with limited mobility.

For example, consider giving your loved one a bathtub grip that attaches to the side of the tub. When the senior exits the bathtub or shower, she can use the grip for extra stability. If you want to splurge, consider a bathroom remodel. There are a variety of sit-down showers for the disabled and elderly. Instead of lowering herself into a bathtub or standing up in a shower, she can sit in a chair and safely bathe.

Elderly people who live on their own can benefit from gifts that make their daily lives a little easier. Buying them gifts that focus on assistance with lawn care and housework as well as adaptive clothing will make them more comfortable living by themselves. Bathroom safety accessories and motion detector lights will prevent dangerous falls. Never forget that the gift of time is one of the best gifts of all, and you don’t even need to spend money.

This article was contributed by Michael Longsdon. For more information and tips to help improve the lives of the elderly in your life, visit Elder Freedom.

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Lazy Guide to Holiday Décor

Person Holding Beige Bauble Near Christmas TreeWhen it comes to decorating your home for Christmas, it can be a task that you don’t have time for or just don’t want to do. These items are not only cheap, but can make your home festive without all the effort.

Pop-Up Christmas Tree

While it may not actually “pop-up” when you pull it out of the box, putting together this tree is a lot easier than your traditional Christmas tree set-up. For $199.95 at Hammacher Schlemmer, this tree can be put together in minutes and already comes with garland and ornaments.

All you need to do is assemble a 6-foot pole, and essentially “hang” the tree around the pole. Even if you take your time with it, it only takes minutes to complete.

Fake Fireplace

Having a fireplace can change the mood of your Christmas gatherings. If you don’t have a fireplace, you don’t have to worrying about one of the clunky, electric ones that you set up in the corner of your home. In fact, no need to worry about heat at all. With a cardboard fireplace from Amazon at $9.98, this is the perfect item for decoration and pictures.

Don’t want to buy a cut-out? That’s okay because the Yule Log Youtube channel offers hours of a running fireplace to display on your TV.

Projector Lights

These can not only be a lifesaver, but a game changer on your home décor. If you’re not in the Clark Griswold spirit of Christmas, but don’t want to be the only non-lit house on the block, this projector is cheap and can add a festive lightshow on your home. For $25.98 on Amazon, the projector shows colorful snowflakes twirling on your home. It can cover a 2,500-square-foot area from just 25 feet.

Not interested in snowflakes? Many other places are selling the light projectors with simple designs or even favorite Christmas cartoon characters.

Inflatable Wreath

If you’re not into garden shopping or DIY, an inflatable wreath can keep decorating simple. For just $11.99 on Amazon, it comes equipped with a repair hatch, hang tab, and string.

Chair Covers

For those not interested in a festive table display, covering your chairs can add the bit of holiday cheer to your table that you’re looking for. You can purchase a set of 6 for $14.99 on, you guess it, Amazon. If you’re going to need to mix and match seats to accommodate for your family, this will be perfect to hide the different chairs and blend them all in.

Electric Menorah

If you don’t want to worry about candles causing hazards or children burning their fingers, you can get an electric menorah for $30.99 on Amazon. No need to worry about an increase in the fire hazards, and it takes less time.

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Checklist for December

adult, beverage, breakfastMake sure you’ve got these items checked on your to-do list to have a happy and safe holiday season!

1. Protect Your Pipes

Whether you live in the Southern cities or Northern, unprotected pipes can burst due to below freezing temperatures. Those living in Southern climates where the cold is less common, and your pipes are not properly insulated, are at a higher risk of pipes bursting. To plan ahead, wrap your pipes in a foam insulation and close the foundation vents. You can also open the cabinet doors under the sink to let warm air flow around the supply lines.

Be prepared for any problems and make sure you know where your main water shut off is located.

2. Oven maintenance

Improperly sealed ovens can lead to more than 20% loss of the machine’s heat. This could lead to longer cooking times and lost energy, which means more money out of your pocket. Check the seal around the oven door for any breaks and cracks. If you choose to replace the seal yourself, make sure you disconnect the power to the oven and read the owner’s manual.

3. Check insulation

By checking the insulation in your home, you could save up to $600 a year on your energy costs. That’s a big chunk of money that can be used somewhere else, like your Christmas gifts. Check your attic for sagging or flattened insulation.

4. Prevent fire hazards

If you didn’t know, real Christmas trees can be one big fire hazard. They lead to $13 million in damage every year. If you prefer having a live tree over a fake one, make sure it’s clear of anything that could set it on fire. Keep it watered and 3-feet away from sources of heat. Turn the lights off at night or when you’re not home, and toss the damaged lights. Another plus to avoid a fire is to invest in LED lights.

Other precautions to avoid fires are keeping space heaters away from the drapes and furniture, and blowing out candles when you’re going to bed or not at home. If you have a fireplace, do not use paper of flammable liquid to start the fire, and use a screen to prevent embers from landing on flammable surfaces.

5. Security

The holidays are prime time for burglaries and break-ins. During the season, one of the most common burglaries happen to your packages from online orders. This is the time to be extra vigilant about your home security.

Illuminate the area around your home, lock the doors and windows, and trim your bushes to deter any intruders. An investment that will be helpful all year is security cameras. Today, there are cameras on the market that will display on your smartphone for 24/7 monitoring in the palm of your hand.

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Pros and Cons of Paying Off Your Mortgage Early

architecture, building, buyThinking of paying back your mortgage early? Assess the pros and cons before doing it!

Pros of Paying Off Early

If you think you can pay off your mortgage early, there is a lot of savings that comes with it. You could actually save thousands of dollars if you pay it off right. Paying off your mortgage early can save you in long-term interest costs.

It can also be great for your overall credit. It decreases your debt, reflecting that you can manage it responsibly by paying it off before it’s due. You have a better debt to income ratio.

Cons of Paying off Early

Unfortunately, paying off your mortgage early can have its negatives.

If you ask a financial advisor about paying off your mortgage early, they will probably advise against it. You may be wondering why, and it comes down to the tax write-offs. You won’t be able to take advantage of the mortgage interest deductions or tax write-offs you can get from paying interest on your mortgage.

By paying a mortgage early, you’re cutting your acquired interest, so you’re losing some that benefit. You won’t be able to take the full extent of mortgage write-offs.

Another disadvantage is, when you put more money into your mortgage, that money is “illiquid”, which means the cash you put toward your home can’t be reaccessed in case of an emergency. That means, if you don’t have enough money to pad your saving while paying off your mortgage early, you can dig yourself into a financial hole if an emergency pops up.

How to Pay Off Your Mortgage Early

Ultimately, it’s up to you and your lifestyle whether or not the pros outweigh the cons of paying off your mortgage early. Realtor.com offers tips to make it happen:

  • Make a payment at the end of the year after you’ve assessed how much extra cash you have. Make the payment to the principal so it reduces the amount of interest you pay in the future.
  • Make an extra payment monthly into a separate check citing “principle” in the memo.
  • Make one-thirtieth of the payment every day to make certain you don’t acquire any interest.
  • If you have mortgage insurance, track the loan-to-value ration on the house and refinance it when you hit 85% LTV. This could lead to hundreds in savings each month which can be applied to the principle balance and not the bank’s insurance.

Other ways you can pay off little-by-little is to plan to increase the amount of money you put toward your loan each month. You can also vow to put any extra money you find like tax return or birthday money toward your mortgage.

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