Multi Generation Moms helping children

Traditions to Bring the Joy Back into Your Holidays

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Isn’t that what they say? Sometimes in the busyness of the season, we can get away from that sentiment or lose sight of the true meaning of it all. But even if you are feeling like you’ve lost that holiday joy, it’s not too late to reclaim it!

One of the best ways to get it back is to enjoy some holiday traditions together. So whether your traditions are plentiful or whether they are running low, here are some traditions to consider for this holiday season and for many holiday seasons to come.

Decorate Together

For some people, this one is difficult, especially if your children are young and don’t have an eye for spreading out ornaments on the Christmas tree. But what wonderful memories it makes when the family spends time decorating together! Oftentimes, our youngest kids are the ones who enjoy it the most. If they’re taught early on that it isn’t about everything looking perfect, but rather a chance for family to spend time together, laughing and enjoying each other, there’s a good chance that even when they hit those teenage years and always seem to be with their friends, this is a tradition they won’t want to miss. And if you’re the type that has to have things just right, you can always fix things to your liking when the kids are asleep.

Look Beyond Yourselves

There are so many ways to give back during the holiday season. It doesn’t have to involve lots of money. You can go to a local retirement home with your family to visit some elderly. Take cookies that the kids helped you make and give them out after you sing some Christmas carols. Contact a school to find out about a family in need. Bring them a meal and/or get some gifts to make their Christmas special. In the post Giving Jars by Heather Platt, she talks about a tradition they have, “at the beginning of December, we put a jar out for all four of the children.” She goes on to explain how they can earn money throughout the month for their jars by doing various extra chores or by being kind to others, etc. On December 24th, they look to see how much money they have earned and find ways to give it away to those who are less fortunate.

Shopping for Family

Allow the kids to help shop for family Christmas gifts. You’ve probably been thinking about what you would like to get people for months now, but help your children think about your family members and what each person may like. It’s a way to express love but also teaches them how to buy gifts with a certain person in mind. You can go to a store to shop together or shop online with one child at a time.

Yes, the holidays can be stressful, but why not do what you can to enjoy them with lasting traditions your family will treasure for years to come?  At AddvantageUSA we wish you and your family a very Happy Holidays!

Safe online Holiday ordering

Safe Online Shopping – A Must for the Holidays

It’s one of the busiest shopping weekends ushering in the busiest shopping season of the year, but what if you aren’t up for getting out in all the chaos or what if your life (or the little ones at home with you) make it where you don’t feel like it’s worth the effort? Never fear! You aren’t alone if you decide to avoid the crowds and stay hold up at home. In fact, you are part of what is becoming more and more of a popular trend in this day and age… the online shopping experience!

BUT, if you decide to do your shopping online, make sure you are taking steps to stay safe!

Who is it?

Is this a reputable company you are purchasing from or are you going with some obscure company because they are offering you a deal that is way better than anything you can find elsewhere? It may not be a scam, but if it sounds too good to be true, it may be. Play it safe and make sure you are ordering from a website/company that has a good reputation.

What is it?

What have you ordered and how much did you pay? Make sure to keep records of your transactions, as well as any confirmation numbers. Check your credit card statements or bank account to make sure it is showing up properly. If it is not, address it immediately.

Where is it?

Make sure you are using a secure network and a computer you trust. Avoid using a public computer or free, public Wi-Fi, where hackers can easily break into your system and quickly access your information. Unless you have a program installed that can protect you, it’s better to wait until you are on a secure network to shop.

And how?

How does the company have its payment form set up? If it is not encrypted, you may want to purchase from somewhere else. In the post 9 Tips for Safe Online Shopping it states, “Before you purchase anything from a web site, verify that the vendor has encrypted its payment form. Many sites use SSL (secure sockets layer) technology to encrypt information flowing between your computer and the store’s server.”

Whether you feel calm as you approach holiday shopping or anxious for waiting too long, make your online shopping experience stress-free as possible. Use these common sense precautions to avoid potential pitfalls of shopping online for the holidays.

Are you looking for a company that cares about protecting your online identity, and that can help you find gifts for everyone on your shopping list? AddvantageUSA is able to do just that. Visit us today and let us help you cross off the items you are looking for with ease and peace of mind!

Halloween day

4 Tips for a Happy Halloween Night (for adults too)

October has finally arrived, which means Halloween decorations are coming out on houses and fall festivals are popping up everywhere. Candy will practically be thrown at you every place you look, but are you ready for a fun Halloween night?

Consider these four tips to turn Halloween into a night for everyone, not just the kids.

Make it a Party

A party always makes a holiday more fun and is an instant way to involve your adult friends in this night which is often dedicated just to kids. Set up the party at a friend’s house in a neighborhood with houses close together. If you have kids, the trick or treating will be fantastic. If you are kid free, you will still have fun getting to see all of the little tykes coming through with their costumes. You can keep the menu simple with a big soup to share or some of these fun Ghastly Ghoulish Recipes. Everyone can chip in and bring an item so that the host doesn’t have to be responsible for it all.

Dress Up

Whether you are a kid or an adult, everyone can have a little fun playing dress up on Halloween. The kids may not need much encouragement to participate, but to make it more fun for everyone, have contests like best dressed, most creative/original, scariest, etc. for kids and adults. Encourage everyone to participate at least to some degree. Even those who are a little shy to jump in can find something to wear like these Darth Vader socks. It doesn’t have to be lavish, but dressing up helps get everyone in the Halloween spirit.

Spike (I mean Spice) it Up

A nice seasonal drink can always add to the fun. Be sure to have kid friendly drinks around, like apple cider or soda, but for the adults, have an adult friendly fall beverage around as well. Try one of these Pumpkin Cocktails or this Apple Cinnamon Fall Sangria for something festive, easy, and delicious.

Stay Safe

Finally, be safe while you’re having fun, especially if you’re taking your kids out to trick or treat through the neighborhood. Make sure everyone in your group knows the rules for safety and fun. Is everyone staying together or is it okay for them to run ahead? What’s the plan if someone gets separated from the group? How do they know which houses to visit and which ones to skip? Do they have on reflectors or lights (maybe glow sticks) so they can be spotted easily by cars driving by or by the adults in your group? Are they allowed to eat the candy before getting back to the house?

Halloween is a holiday that can be fun for all ages, so get ready to enjoy it like you did when you were a kid.

AddvantageUSA hopes you have a happy and safe Halloween this year, whether you are young or old!

Halloween Recipes

Ghastly Ghoulish Recipes for Halloween

Halloween is sometimes overlooked for its opportunity to be a great time for creative fun in the kitchen. We tend to think of Halloween only as a time for trick or treat, candy, and costume parties. These are all good fun, but at our house we like to add a gastronomic dimension to Halloween celebrations.

Of course, we didn’t do all of this on Halloween night when the kids were young and trick or treating. Then we would do one fun food thing before we went out to spook the neighbors. Now that the kids are older (some off to college) we do the big spread and have a party. (Warning: shameless commercial plug: this is a blog post about cooking. You know that great cutlery makes cooking more fun. Did you also know you can also use them to scare away Halloween psychos? Yes, you can.)

Anyway, here are some of the favorite appetizers from years past. Starting with appetizers: We’ve done dancing pretzel broomsticks for appetizers. Wrap your favorite pretzel sticks with a string cheese skirt. It’s easy, all you need is some string cheese, green onion, and pretzel sticks. Cut the string cheese in half and slice it long ways to make the broom. Punch a small hole at the top and push the pretzel through the hole. Wrap a bit of onion around it. Delicious.

Ghoulish Recipes

There is a desert variation on this theme. If you are headed out to trick or treat, you probably won’t want to add even more sugar to the meal. But, if you are having a party, try making Reeses broomsticks. Push a pretzel into the bottom of a mini Reeses peanut butter cup. Warning: these go fast, so make sure you make plenty!

Another fun finger food is the ever popular spider egg. Use your favorite recipe for deviled eggs. If you want some really orange yolk, add a few drops of food color. Don’t start with all of the yolk. Color small amounts until you get the right formula, which will be slightly different every time you do this. When you get it the perfect orange, add it to the whole bowl of creamy egg yolk. Stuff the eggs and set on a platter. Now take black olives and cut the spider parts. Place them on top of the eggs. You can decorate these with a mixture of mashed olive and mustard.

Ghoulish Recipes

All of our Halloween meal is finger food. For a salad we eat goofy ghouls on a slice of tomato. It’s a twist on the caprese salad, which is about as easy to make as anything you can do in the kitchen. Drizzle some good olive oil on a plate, something with fresh flavor. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and black pepper. Toss some basil leaves on top. Slice some plum or roma tomatoes and put a slice on each leaf of basil. Make some globes of fresh mozzarella di  bufala with a melon baller. Cut them in half and put the eyeballs on the tomato slice. To add the iris, slice some pitted olives. You can use green or black for the iris. For the pupil, punch a hole in the olive color you did not use for the iris with a straw. (As an alternative, you can slice stuffed olives.) Put the iris and the pupil on the white of the eye. Hello! Your salad is looking at you. I promise, a plateful of these goofy ghouls will give you the giggles.

Halloween Recipes

Finally, if you are doing a whole sit down to family dinner on Halloween, then you want to check this out. I want to give a shout out to a really creative chef whose idea I found while preparing to write this post. I think this is one of the best ways to present a Halloween meatloaf I have ever seen. And, you cooks out there know: presentation is essential to the imagination that is at the heart of a good kitchen. Great job, Megan at NotMartha.org. I think the meat hand looks like it was taken from Frankenstein’s creature after the fire.

Not Martha - Meat Hand

From AddvantageUSA, we wish you have a Happy Halloween. Trick or treat!

Mom and the Holidays

It’s Never Too Early to Start Thinking About the Holidays

Autumn is here, and the start of the new season ushers in many exciting things to come. Kids have settled into their routines at school, along with their many after-school activities. But beyond cooler weather, football games, and pumpkin spice lattes, autumn is full of excitement with holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Let’s be honest though, before the Halloween candy has been removed from store shelves, we start seeing Christmas trees and other holiday decorations overtaking stores in anticipation of the big holiday rush. Why wait for the big rush, when you can start buying gifts for your loved ones now?

In the recent post, One More Thing About Why We Love Our Moms, it discusses how moms are always thinking forward about what is to come. It says, “When the kids are trick or treating, mom is having a great time. But, she is also planning Thanksgiving and Christmas. Kids will be opening Christmas presents. Mom will be there, heart and soul. But, she also has an eye on the fact that school will start again soon and she has things she wants ready for that.”

So yes, Mom may be thinking ahead about the holidays and what needs to be done, but so can you. In fact it’s never too early to start getting ready for the holidays. How great would it be to have all of your gifts bought ahead and then be able to relax and enjoy the fun of the holiday season!  It would be so much better than feeling the stress of waiting too late and not being able to find the right gifts for the people you love most. In the post, Take the Stress out of Christmas by Planning Ahead, [email protected] agrees. She states, “By making some positive steps toward getting your holiday plans and needs in order now, you can spend more time enjoying family and friends when the season actually arrives.”

So go ahead and start thinking through your lists of who you will be buying for and what you would like to get them. Does your son want the Xbox 360 or has your wife been dropping hints for some time that she would love some diamond stud earrings? Just think how impressed she will be when you surprise her with them and even better when she finds out you put so much thought into it that you bought them months ahead. And again, the more you can get done now, the more time you will have to really take in the true joys the holiday season brings.

Visit AddvantageUSA and see the broad range of gifts we have for all of the people you will be buying for this holiday season. Or talk with one of our representatives to learn about our gifts for children, men, and/or women.  (888-601-5527)

Moms and daughter

One More Thing About Why We Love Our Moms

In the never-ending flow of (often superficial) self-help advice, there are innumerable slogans that tell us to “Live today.” “Be in the now.” “Live the Moment.” Somehow, this advice flows right by our mothers – and thank goodness for that.

Unconstrained by “the now”, moms are the most agile of time jumpers. They can recall when Joey’s first basketball team won its first game and Maria’s first role in a grade school play. Moms know how to join their kids in whatever is going on today with what will be happening in their future. Moms know how to look ahead, over the horizon, and plan for a moment that their kids won’t realize for a month, a year, or a long time from now.

So, we may learn one more way to appreciate the mothers in our lives by appreciating them for the ways they live in the past, present, and future all at the same time – especially the future.

When we are young we move from one big event to the next. We arrive at the first day of school, a birthday party, or a holiday without ever realizing that our moms have been thinking, imagining, and planning for the big day long before we do.

Take the first days of school. The kiddos are oblivious until a few days before the big event when, suddenly, they panic because summer freedom is about to disappear. But mom? Beginning somewhere just past the middle of summer, mom was living the first week of school and thinking of all that she needed to do before it arrived. She had a list: clothes, school supplies, lunches and snacks, carpools, and meeting teachers, along with afterschool activities such as sports, cheerleading, music lessons, dance class, math club, science club– all the things that coincide with the first days of school.

Mom begins to look ahead fairly early in the summer and by the time school starts she is doing a magical thing that moms do better than most anyone else –she’s doing two things at once. Mother is there with her kids, being a part of the moment, doing the practical daily chores, encouraging them to live well, do well, be kind, and enjoy themselves. And, at the same time as the kids are settling in to the new routine, mom is thinking about an upcoming birthday party or Halloween costumes.

Now, apply this magic over a whole calendar. When the kids are trick or treating, mom is having a great time. But, she is also planning Thanksgiving and Christmas. Kids will be opening Christmas presents. Mom will be there, heart and soul. But , she also has an eye on the fact that school will start again soon and she has things she wants ready for that. When school starts, Mom is thinking about a Valentine’s dance or Easter.

We do not mean to suggest that any mother does this perfectly, or needs to. Nor are we suggesting that our moms are automatons working for a future that never arrives. Mothers make mistakes, forget things, and experience moments of failure. Moreover, in the midst of it all, moms are also working, achieving personal goals, and enjoying friendship with other adults.

What we are saying is that mothers can teach us a lot if we look at how they observe the past, present, and future as a whole. For mom, time is something organic and elastic, and she uses it to bring together all of the experiences that make her life and her children’s lives as joyful and productive and satisfying as possible at any given moment, on any given day, during any month or year or lifetime.

The gift that mothers have to live in “the now” while at the same time imagining and planning for the future is not just to be appreciated, but also to be celebrated. This is one more thing to love about our moms.

National Ice Cream Month

Let’s Celebrate National Ice Cream Month

We are a people who love to celebrate. Give us an excuse, and we will celebrate just about anything, especially if it has to do with food. Search the internet, and you can probably find a day to celebrate your favorite food with others who adore it as much as you do.

Take July alone, and you will find a long list of wonderful foods that have been given a day in their honor. National Chocolate Day, Sugar Cookie Day, Tapioca Pudding Day, National Caviar Day, Junk Food Day, National Lasagna Day, and National Cheesecake Day are just a few that are celebrated in July. But one that can’t be overlooked is National Ice Cream Day. It’s such a favorite that it doesn’t stop with just the day, but rather the whole month of July is known as National Ice Cream Month.

This wonderful celebration started back in 1984, when President Ronald Reagan declared the third Sunday of July as National Ice Cream Day and the whole month as National Ice Cream Month. Ice cream is such a beloved treat that the International Dairy Foods Association claims, “About 10.3 percent of all the milk produced by U.S. dairy farmers is used to produce ice cream, contributing significantly to the economic well-being of the nation’s dairy industry.”

You can enjoy it at your favorite local ice cream shop, buy it at the local grocery store, or better yet, experiment with making it right in the comfort of your own home. You may want to start with the basic flavors, but don’t be afraid to get creative and try mixing it up with different flavors and toppings. Check out Kristin Appenbrink’s post, 30 Must-Try Ice Cream Recipes for National Ice Cream Day, for a variety of combinations, some of which you probably wouldn’t think of on your own. You may even stumble across some recipes that will trick your pickiest little eater into eating some healthy ingredients hidden in this delectable treat.

So don’t miss out on all of the fun this month! Make sure you are taking time to enjoy this creamy and cool treat in all its greatness. And, visit AddvantageUSA to learn more about the ice cream makers we offer, and find the one that will help you make ice cream you can enjoy all year-long.