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3 Simple Desserts for Your Special Valentine

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 - by Becky Graebner

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Valentine’s Day is coming up which means some of you may be running around trying to decide what to do for the occasion.  If you’re staying in and cooking, here are three, simple dessert sauces that can pair easily with things already in your kitchen.  Sometimes, a simple and classic dessert is the best dessert. Spend less time cooking and more time with the people you love!

All of these recipes an be found in my favorite, handy-dandy sauce cookbook, The Top 100 Quick and Easy Sauces.

1. The Classic: Chocolate Fudge Sauce

Ingredients:

heaped 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

heaped 1/2 cup sugar

2 oz. good-quality semi-sweet chocolate (broken into squares)

4 tbsp. butter (diced)

3 tbsp. light corn syrup

vanilla extract (a few drops)

4 tbsp. light cream

Directions:

Grab a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the sugars, chocolate, butter, and corn syrup.  Heat the mixture slowly until it is smooth.  Stir continuously.

Bring the mixture to a boil and simmer over low heat for five minutes. Stir continuously.

Remove from heat.

Add the vanilla extract and cream.  Mix well.

How to serve: pour this over ice cream, sliced fruit (strawberries), or baked goods (hello, double chocolate brownies!)  Add some pink, red, and white jimmies for decoration.

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Martin Luther King’s Discriminatory Dream

Monday, January 20th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

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Take the time to listen to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech today. Then ask yourself where his message would fit in today’s political discourse.

He references the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He pleads for real justice, the abolition of force-wielding institutions of racial segregation, not the false “social justice” of material provision. He explicitly condemns hatred and violence, recognizing whites as “brothers and sisters.” Most powerfully, he concludes with the exhortation to “let freedom ring!”

Who among those laying claim to King’s legacy sound like him today? Who among the organized Left advocates for objective freedom and true justice? Who rejects hatred and fosters the healing of racial divides? Al Sharpton? Jesse Jackson? Van Jones? Barack Obama? Who?

The truth, laid bare for the discerning to see, is that those who most vocally lay claim to King’s legacy fundamentally reject his noble dream. Recall that quote most cited whenever King is evoked:

I have a dream, that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will no longer be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Consider what such a nation requires. In order to judge someone by the content of his character, you must remain free to do so and to act upon that judgment in pursuit of your own happiness. Effectively, you must be free to discriminate, to judge this as right and that as wrong, to deem one person good and another bad. Liberty proves foundational to King’s dream. Yet those laying claim to King’s legacy stand opposed to liberty at every turn.

We cannot force individuals to judge others by the content of their character. Any attempt to do so, any attempt to abolish racism by state decree, will fail on account of its ignoring the primacy of choice in the formation of values. King’s dream can only be achieved through persuasion, by appealing to reason and securing individual consent. Consequently, the world necessary to foster racial harmony counter-intuitively must tolerate offensive attitudes and choices.

True, under liberty we may never reach the ideal. But we’ll come a hell of a lot closer than under any other condition.

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Tu Bishvat, Israel’s Holiday of Trees

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

PJM-Tu Bishvat-1This Wednesday evening and Thursday mark the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat (the name refers to the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat). Also known as the New Year of Trees and as Israeli Arbor Day, it’s a minor, nonbiblical holiday, its source in the Talmud. But quite a to-do is made about it in Israel.

The Talmud specified Tu Bishvat as the day on which the annual agricultural cycle begins. Considering that the holiday falls in January or, at best, February, this—the middle of winter—may seem a strange time for agricultural rebirth. It is, though, the time in the Land of Israel when—amid the cold and damp, but with sunnier intervals—you start to see the first white and pink almond blossoms.

You also see packages of dried fruits (dates, figs, apricots, pineapple) and nuts, especially almonds, everywhere. In the Diaspora, Tu Bishvat was marked by eating fruits of the Land of Israel. In the European Diaspora with its cold winters, that meant dried fruits. Now, back in the Land of Israel, they’re ubiquitous at this time of year.

But on a deeper, more ideological level, Israeli Tu Bishvat has become a day of massive tree planting. The custom began in 1890, in the early days of Zionist settlement. A bit later—about a century ago—it was adopted by the Jewish National Fund, which made Tu Bishvat a day to fight malaria by planting swamp-draining eucalyptus trees.

By now the Jewish National Fund has planted over 240 million trees in Israel, adding 12,500 acres of new forest every year. On each Tu Bishvat it holds tree-planting events in forests; about a million Israelis take part in them including large numbers of schoolchildren.

Mark Twain, touring the Land of Israel in 1867, not long before Zionist settlement began, described it this way:

…[a] desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds—a silent mournful expanse…. A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action…. We never saw a human being on the whole route….There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere….

 He wouldn’t recognize it today.

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Your Feel-Good Youtube Video for Thursday

Thursday, January 9th, 2014 - by Becky Graebner
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This video titled “Uncle Henry Gets Surprised on Christmas” has only been online for a few days.  It already has more than 2 million views.  Why?  Because it’s a feel-good video that will probably make you tear-up and laugh.  (Humans secretly love losing control of their tear ducts in a surge of compassion and happiness.)

Watch Henry unwrap his Christmas gift and demonstrate what true happiness and appreciation look like.  This video gets me every time.

I hope you enjoy.

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3 Reasons to Get Addicted to Call the Midwife

Sunday, December 29th, 2013 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Haven’t yet caught an episode of the BBC/PBS smash hit series Call the Midwife? Here are three reasons from writer/producer Heidi Thomas why you need to watch this groundbreaking feminist masterpiece:

3. Call the Midwife provides female role models who embrace professionalism, not porn.

“I remember an RAF Careers Officer coming to my school and telling us about the wonderful work we could do in the RAF… as catering assistants! We were furious to hear we would never be allowed to be pilots. Now every profession a girl would wish to consider is open to her.

But I think the Spice Girl, Girl Power thing veered a lot of young women off course, because it was about investing your self-worth in your physical persona, sexuality and “attitude”. I love the idea that we have put the notion of professional women right up there in front of a new generation of TV watchers.”

2. Call the Midwife is the antidote to bad girl TV.

“One of the things they enjoy the most is playing women who are actually nice to each other. Because as young attractive actresses, they are often only offered parts where women are in opposition to one another, where they are catty, or bitchy or quarrelling over the same man.

“They love the idea of women living together in a supportive community dedicated to their professions and to the service of other women, which brings us back round to your thesis about Call The Midwife as a feminist piece.”

1. Even the boys in your house will become addicted to this show about midwives, nuns and babies.

“One interesting thing we learnt, from a breakdown of our audience figures, is that numerically, more men were watching Call The Midwife than Top Gear…”.

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It’s Time to Make a New Christmas Resolution

Saturday, December 28th, 2013 - by Rhonda Robinson

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Sometimes Christmas just doesn’t turn out looking like we think it should.

In spite of thirteen weeks of planning, and even getting my Christmas cards out for the first time in about ten years, this Christmas was hard.

It wasn’t because of money; God provided plenty of work. It wasn’t because of unfulfilled Christmas wishes; I didn’t have any. In fact, in many ways it was a very sweet Christmas, filled with some of the most inexpensive, yet profoundly thoughtful, gifts I’ve ever received.

However, that’s seeing it in retrospect. After spending the bulk of Christmas Eve on the verge of tears, I finally realized what was really wrong.

Everything has changed — everything.

The Christmas stockings hanging on the mantle that I love so dearly remained empty. The little girls whose Christmas dresses they were made of were not here. All but two out of the six were miles away, busy creating Christmas for their own families. My little boys are both men now. There were no Brio Mec building sets under the tree for them, no wooden trains or slingshots.

Although we were blessed with a house full of friends and some family on Christmas Eve, and woke to the grins of six grandchildren and one thoroughly excited teenager, the house still felt empty. There were just too many faces missing. I wasn’t the only one that felt it.

I know. Children grow up.

This year, I made a decision. I’m changing everything. If I can’t have it the way it was, then fine. I’ll create a new normal.

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Merry Christmas from the Puppacita

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson
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8-year-old Chi-Chi (aka The Puppacita) sporting her San Francisco 49ers fleece but finding Santa’s head scratches to be just as cozy…

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Peace with God Amid Christmas Chaos

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard

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As I write this I am perched on the edge of a Christmas “celebration” threatening to become a cross between Christmas with the Cranks and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (complete with a Something-of-the-Month-Club gift for my husband, purchased online tonight due to my procrastination). My in-laws will be arriving in a matter of hours and the turkey is taking a leisurely candlelight bath in the kitchen sink right now because I neglected to take it out of the freezer 3-4 days before Christmas Eve as recommended and it is currently suitable only for bowling. The ham is in another county, caught in an internecine family “misunderstanding” which may result in the turkey flying solo on the big day. The presents are unwrapped, not a single cookie has graced my oven, and I am seriously considering punting on my one contribution to Christmas Day with my own family — the dessert.

In addition to the food and gifts and unsent Christmas cards — okay, no, I did not even purchase cards, let alone address and mail them — and while we are on the subject, I cannot even bear to open another one of those braggy Christmas newsletters to hear about everyone’s perfect life — and now I’ve lost my train of thought. This is what the Christmas “festivities” can do to a person.

As I was saying, add to all of this the heaviness in my heart for friends and family members who are struggling during what should be a joyous time of year — grieving lost loved ones, dealing with parents in the hospital and in nursing homes, struggling with health issues and marital difficulties. And then there is the migraine monster that battles for control of my head and my life.  Will this second round of steroids knock out this 2-week cycle?

When my husband walked in the door, sans meat, and announced the ham embargo, I lost it. By lost it I mean I completely checked out. I ran to the pharmacy before it closed and then came home and sat in the car in the cold garage on my own personal pity pot for a very long time. I let calls about tomorrow’s plans go to voice mail and then shut my phone off.

So, Merry Christmas, right?

As I desperately worked on an attitude adjustment tonight, I realized that the problems are not Christmas cookies and syrupy family Christmas letters or even a ham that is MIA.

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Christmas Carol Classic: Romanian Style

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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Earlier this month the Jerusalem Post reported on a holiday program that aired on Romanian State television featuring a Christmas carol all about the Jews. You could make the argument that most Christmas carols — including famed favorites like Silent Night, O’Come All Ye Faithful, and Little Town of Bethlehem – are all songs about Jews, one in particular, but this ancient song promises to transcend those oldies and become an instant classic. The lyrics, translated into English, go something like this:

“The kikes, damn kikes,

Holy God would not leave the kike alive,

neither in heaven nor on earth,

only in the chimney as smoke,

this is what the kike is good for,

to make kike smoke through the chimney on the street.”

Reportedly the lyrics rhyme better in Romanian.

To clarify, the Romanian public broadcaster, RTV, that aired the live show issued a statement giving all the credit for the song and the performance to someone else – namely the Center for Preservation and Promotion of Traditional Culture. This statement led some to question exactly what constitutes traditional culture in Romania. Follow up reports indicate that “traditional culture” includes referring to Jews by the perjorative colloquial term “jidovi” when singing what are apparently 100 year old Christmas carols on live television.

Romanian Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean remarked, ”I strongly condemn any form of anti-Semitism, even more when it happens to be spread through a public media.” When asked what he thought of anti-Semitism when spread through word of mouth, he added, “Again, I’m against it – but not as much.”

From an educational standpoint, the Christmas carol brings a refined Romanian cultural understanding to the oft-touted holiday phrase, “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.” One news outlet elected to report the positive side of the otherwise disturbing story, deeming the song “inclusive” of Jews in the Romanian Christmas tradition.

RTV was forced to issue an apology for airing the performance. Both the Center for Preservation and Promotion of Traditional Culture and the folk group that sang the song declined to comment.

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The Santa Race Debate and Misplaced Christmas Priorities

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013 - by Bridget Johnson

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This Christmas season likely won’t be remembered as much for how Lodi residents helped replace the gifts stolen from the family of a soldier returning from Afghanistan as it will for the debate over the race of the fictional bearer of gifts.

It started with culture blogger Aisha Harris’ Dec. 10 op-ed for Slate in which she suggests replacing “a melanin-deficient Santa” with a multicultural representational penguin. Then it escalated when Fox’s Megyn Kelly empaneled three guests on her primetime show to discuss the piece and declared “for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white.” Both women later said their comments were tongue-in-cheek.

Last week, I was pulled onto NPR, where I’m a regular contributor, to discuss the fracas with Harris and others — the fracas being an argument about the race of a fictional character who lives at the North Pole with elves and pilots a flying-reindeer sleigh to slide down a chimney with presents. Reactions there were varied.

My first thought was that, over the centuries, portrayals of Jesus and the saints have tended to reflect the culture of that region. The Netherlands’ Sinterklass looks wholly Northern European without much hint of the real St. Nicholas’ heritage in Asia Minor. Jesus was a Middle Eastern Jew, yet cultural representations around the world range from a Jesus with Asian features in the Far East to a black Jesus in Africa and a white, flowing haired representation in Europe. However the cultural interpretation, the legacy of the individual or meaning of their symbolism is not diminished. I doubt either Jesus or St. Nick care about the color of their skin as they do people emulating their works and listening to their words. Unfortunately, the black Santa debate has brought out a lot of ugly in what’s supposed to be a more inspired time of year, with comments left behind the cloak of anonymity on other sites’ stories including racist cracks about black Santa being on welfare or stealing toys instead of leaving them. That is definitely something neither Jesus nor St. Nicholas would utter.

Which leads to my ultimate conclusion about the great Santa debate, which I’ll explain on the next page.

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1 Partridge in a Pear Tree: Last-minute Stocking Stuffers

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Today is Tuesday, December 24, 2013—Christmas Eve.  If we were having a literal countdown of the “Twelve days of Christmas” song, we would receive “one partridge in a pear tree” today.

Christmas is tomorrow…

Here are some last-minute stocking-stuffer gift ideas:

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Men:

Socks: Kirkland Merino Wool Blend Socks

Cuff links:  Ion-Plated Stainless Steel and Carbon Fiber Cuff Links

Wallet: Calvin Klein Mens Bifold Black Wallet

Scarf: John Hanly & Co. Irish Lambswool Scarf

 

31QVdSuZbfL._SY395_Women:

Wrap: Paisley Jacquard Pashmina Wrap

Ear Warmers: 180’s Tahoe Komen Ear Warmers

Earrings: 14K Yellow Gold Ball Stud Earrings (4mm)

iPhone Case: OtterBox iPhone 5 Defender Series Case

 

71HUB2F43lL._SL1500_Kids:

Games: Bananagrams

Hat: Critter Cap Plush Wolf Hat

Movie: Despicable Me 2 DVD

Slingshot: Flingshot Slingshot Flying Screaming Monkey

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Your VodkaPundit Christmas Movie Guide

Monday, December 23rd, 2013 - by Stephen Green

Tis almost the night before Christmas — but there’s still plenty of time to load up the DVD player or stream from Netflix. So make lovely adult beverages for you and yours, and mugs of hot cocoa for the kids.

I should also mention that I’ve never once been able to sit through all of It’s a Wonderful Life, so there’s a good chance I’m a terrible person with retrograde taste in holiday entertainment. So with that out of the way, let’s look at what we do watch every year here at Casa Verde.

Love Actually

Apparently there’s some kind of bitter feud amongst the Love Actually-haters and the Love Actually-lovers, but I’m here to resolve those differences by gently reminding you that the Love Actually-haters are possibly less than human, almost certainly dead inside, and at the very least are incapable of simple human emotion.

Here we have every love story crammed into one breezy and perfectly paced gem of a movie. There’s romantic love, new love, young love, lost love, love that bridges the language barrier, brotherly love, lustful love, the love between a sister and her institutionalized brother, and perhaps the most touching of all, the love between a step-father and the son he finds himself caring for alone. The scenes between Liam Neeson and young Thomas Sangster are by themselves worth the price of admission. And every Anglophile will love Rowan Atkinson’s two pitch-perfect cameos.

There’s some language and some comical nudity, so this one might not be for the kiddos — but prove to me you aren’t dead inside and learn to love Love Actually.

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2 Turtle Doves: A Gift Guide for the Tech-Savvy

Monday, December 23rd, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Today is Monday, December 23, 2013.  If we were having a literal countdown of the “Twelve days of Christmas” song, we would receive “two turtle doves” today.

There are only two days until Christmas!

Here is a gift guide for the people on your list who love electronics and gadgets.

61lYpytqmXL._SL1500_Audio:

Bose:  QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

The best way to hear your music—without any interference.

HDMX: Classic Bluetooth Wireless Speaker

Connect this handy speaker to your Bluetooth-enabled device whenever you want to listen to music–at home, at work, and even on the beach!

full_GoPro_HD_Hero_3_357728Cameras:

Canon: Canon PowerShot A2500 16 MP Digital Camera

This camera’s 2.7-in LCD screen makes photo and video review/playback clear and easy.

GoPro: GoPro HERO3+ Black Edition

A tough, waterproof camera that allows even the most active owners to document their adventures.

Gadgets for the Car:

Belkin: 2-Port Car Charger with Lightning to USB Cable for iPhone 5/5S/iPod touch/iPod nano/iPad/iPad mini

This charger fits into any car power outlet and will charge two devices at once.

Garmin: Garmin Nüvi

Never get lost again.

Kids:

Leapfrog: LeapPad2 Power Learning Tablet

Over 800+ games, videos, and eBooks that are appropriate for kids.

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Phone:

OtterBox: Commuter Series Case for Samsung Galaxy S III

A durable case that will keep your S3 safe!

 

 

 

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NIX Digital: 8 in Hi-Res Digital Photo Frame with Motion Sensor

All your photos in one place.

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3 French Hens: A Gift Guide for the Bookworms

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Today is Sunday, December 22, 2013.  If we were having a literal countdown of the “Twelve days of Christmas” song, we would receive “three French hens” today.

There are only three days until Christmas!

Here is a gift guide for some of the book-lovers on your list:

619RpdGjmwLFor Kids and Young Adults:

Dewdney: Llama Llama and the Bully Goat

A book about identifying and forgiving bullies.

Dahl: Roald Dahl 15-book box set

The classics you grew up with, all in one place.  A great gift for kids and adults.

Carle: Friends

Another great book by Eric Carle—this one focuses on the power of friendship.

Bemelmans: Madeline

Your favorite little girls in two straight lines.

Pilkey: The New Captain Underpants Collection

Perfect for kids who are stubborn when it comes to reading.  These books are sure to get them reading—and laughing.

Montgomery: The Complete Anne of Green Gables Set

A must-read for young ladies.  I cannot recommend these books enough.

Herriot: The Complete Box Set by James Herriot

James Herriot, a veterinary surgeon, writes about his animal adventures in Yorkshire England before, during, and after WWII.  You’ll laugh, cry, and love these books.

Roth: Divergent Series Complete Box Set

A fresh, compelling twist on the popular “dystopia” theme.

the-reason-i-jumpFor Adults:

Gladwell: David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

Another thought-provoking book by Malcolm Gladwell.

Higashida: The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism

A fascinating journey with teenager, Naoki, as he explains autism in his own words.

Stein: The Art of Racing in the Rain

A touching book told from the canine perspective.

Martin: A Game of Thrones 5-Book Boxed Set

It’s not just for young adults–read the books that everyone is talking about.

Ambrose: Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normany to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest

An amazing story of American courage during WWII.

Hirsi Ali: Infidel

A gripping, eye-opening autobiography of a courageous woman who fought back against tradition.

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The Lie of Christmas: Are You a ‘Believer’?

Saturday, December 21st, 2013 - by Rhonda Robinson

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“Are you a believer?”

If you asked me that question, my immediate response would be a resounding “yes.” I’ve been a “believer” since age 16. Although, I would have automatically assumed you were talking about believing in Christ.

But when a teacher recently asked her class of six year olds about their beliefs, she was definitely not talking about Christianity. It all started while reading a Christmas book aloud ; she posed the question of “believing” to the class.

Unfortunately, six-year-old Joy answered honestly: ”No.”

She explained that in her family they celebrate Jesus — Santa’s not real. The teacher immediately summoned the first grader for a private conference at her desk (in front of the entire class). There Joy was reprimanded and told it didn’t matter what was taught at home; there they believed in Santa.

Later that day Joy went home and told her mother, “I felt like I was going to cry. But it’s OK, I kept my smile on.”

An email soon went out to parents, presumably of both “believers and non-believers.”

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4 Colly Birds: A Gift Guide for the Hardcore Home Decorators

Saturday, December 21st, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Today is Saturday, December 21, 2013.  If this were a literal countdown of the “Twelve days of Christmas” song, we would receive “four colly birds” today. (A “colly bird” is a common blackbird, FYI.)

There are only four days until Christmas! (You shopping procrastinators really better get a move on…)

Here is a gift guide for the interior decorators and home-goods lovers on your list:

61BuWtKiv0L._SL1500_Home Decor:

Vase: Abbott Ceramic Owl Vase

A quirky but unique way to display flowers.

Frame: J Devlin Photo Frame with Vintage Glass and Wire

An elegant way for photo-lovers to display their precious pictures.

Art Glass: Galaxy Art Color Swirl Glass Vase

A beautiful piece that can be used as a vase or appreciated as art.

Candle Sticks: IMAX Kanan Wood Candleholders

These varied candlestick sets are all the rage.  Versatile and easy to arrange and restyle for the seasons

Christmas Nativity Set: Willow Tree Nativity Set

Remind friends and family of the true meaning of Christmas.  This elegant gift will soon become a favorite holiday decoration.

Blankets and Throws: Ultimate Sherpa Throw Blanket

Give the gift of toasty toes with this posh, sherpa throw.

Candle-holder: Moroccan Lantern Blue Glass Candle Holder

A unique gift for the candle-lover.

Storage: Anchor Hocking Heritage Hill Glass 1-Gallon Jar

An empty canvas for savvy decorators.  This jar can be used for practical means (kitchen dry goods) or as a container to display ornaments or other small goods throughout the house.

Casual Pillows: Ojia Cotton Linen Decorative Pillow Covers

Spread the love with these swappable pillow covers.

Fancy Pillows: DreamHome-100% Silk Designer Pillow Cover

Great for entertainers who like their couches to be as festive as the rest of their home.

51Sr6mIpLCLKitchen and Dining:

Wine: Oenophilia Bottle Stopper Bouquet

Perfect for the wine connoisseur in your family.

Wine Glasses: Libbey Vina 12-piece stemless red and white wine glasses

A twist on the “wine glass.”

Chargers: Old Dutch Round Décor Copper Charger Plate

A snazzy, decorating essential for people who like to spice up their traditional china.

Classic Runner: Handmade Classic Hemstitch Natural Table Runner

Simple, classic, and perfect for everyday use or special events.

Luxe Runner: Artiwa Burnt Orange and Brown Silk Decorative Table Runner

A great gift for the artsy home decorator.

Placemats: Reversible Hand-Stitched Organza Placemat

Perfect for those who love throwing formal dinners.

Napkin Rings: Round Mesh Napkin Rings

A little rustic, with a pinch of glam, these napkin rings are sure to be a great addition to any table.

Tablecloths: Roseberry Linen Concerto Spill-Proof Tablecloth

Yes, you read correctly. This tablecloth is spill-proof!  Meticulous decorators won’t have to worry about pesky stains ruining their linen!

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5 Golden Rings: A Gift Guide for the Crafty and Artistic

Friday, December 20th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Today is Friday, December 20, 2013.  If we were counting down the “Twelve days of Christmas” song, we would receive “five golden rings” today.

There are only five days until Christmas!

Here is a gift guide for some of the most creative people on your list!

51zQo1g-qGLThe Painters and Sketchers:

Drawing Paper: Strathmore 400 Series Drawing Paper Pad

When creativity hits, you can never have enough of these pads.

Watercolor Paper: Strathmore 300 Series Watercolor Paper

Essential for any water-colorist.

Acrylic Paints: Golden Heavy Body Acrylic Introductory Set

I personally recommend these paints. They are a little pricey, but they are smooth and high-quality.

Mediums: Golden Introductory Gel Mediums and Modeling Pastes Set

Great intro set for painters seeking to add dimension or texture to their work. I highly recommend these mediums.

Brushes: Royal Langnickel Gold Taklon Brush Set

A brush pack that is compatible with any type of paint.

Watercolor Pencils:  Staedtler Karat Aquarell Premium Watercolor Pencils

A new twist on watercolors!

5573351The Quilters, Sewers, and Knitters:

Essential Pattern Book: Complete Dictionary of Essential Stitch Patterns

400 patterns for advanced and beginner knitters.

Stitch Counter: Clover Knitting Stitch Counter

This gizmo will keep you on track.

Hat Pattern Book: 15 Animal Hat Patterns to Knit

Keep your head warm with a hand-knit hat!

Mats: Alvin Professional Cutting Mats

Double-sided and suitable for all types of blades.

Cutting: OLFA Ergonomic Rotary Cutter

Equipped to handle your heavy-duty projects.  It’s also suitable for both Left and Right-handed people.

51E7aMK1cdLKits for Crafty Kids:

Beads: Melissa and Doug Bead Bouquet

220 wooden beads that are easy to string.

Beginning Sewing: Singer Beginners Sewing Kit

All the basics for sewing-newbies in one kit!

Spool-knit Animals: Colorbok Spool Knit Critters Kit

A cute and easy craft for kids.

Skrinky-Dinks: Do-it-Yourself Wear! Shrinky Dink Kit

Pre-cut shapes, magnets, colored pencils, and key-chains are all included in this fun, retro activity kit.

Sewing Craft: Creativity for Kids Sew a Sock Kitty

Great craft for young, beginner sewers.  (Kit includes EVERYTHING you will need)

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6 Geese a Laying: A Gift Guide for Little Tikes and Young Kids

Thursday, December 19th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Today is Thursday, December 19, 2013.  If this we were using the “Twelve Days of Christmas” song as a countdown, today we would receive “six geese a laying.”

There are only six days until Christmas!

Here is a gift guide for the precious nephews, nieces, sons, and daughters on your list.

250px-GoodnightmoonThe Babies:

Jumper: Baby Einstein Musical Motion Activity Jumper

Let babies explore colors, shapes, and sounds while bouncing

Story time: Goodnight Moon Book

A classic book that should grace every baby’s nursery shelf.

Bedtime: Graco Sweet Slumber Sound Machine

Soothe baby to sleep with 12 different sounds and a nightlight.

mouseThe Toddlers:

Scooter: Prince Lionheart Wheely Bug (Mouse)

An adorable array of animals that your toddler can easily ride.

Plush: Despicable Me 2 Minion Stuart Plush

A cute plush for Gru and Minion fans.

Spinning Fun: Playskool Sit ‘n Spin

Hours of spinning, whirling, and twirling.

img_molly_01The School-age Kids:

Versatile Animals: Jungle Animals Set of 60

Great in the bath or “on land,” these toys are perfect for kids who love animals and using their imagination.

Cars: Hot Wheels 20 Car Gift Pack

Treat your kid to a fleet of muscle and classic cars

Classic Dolls: American Girl Molly Doll and Paperback Book

One of the original, hit “American Girl Dolls,” Molly McIntire and her adventure books are sure to please any young lady.

Race Tracks: Hot Wheels Triple Track Twister Track Set

For the little speed demon in your family.

Building Blocks: LEGO Ultimate Building Set

Perfect for LEGO aficionados and newbies.

Barbie Dolls: Barbie 3-Story Dream Townhouse

If the kids on your list love Barbie, they’ll love this dream house (it even has an elevator!)

Model Building: K’NEX Classics 50 Model Building Set

Comes with 700 pieces and directions for 50 building ideas.

Bow and Arrow—with a Twist: Bow & Mallow Marshmallow Shooter

Wage battle with marshmallows!  Kids (and adults) will love this gift.

FileHippo-IndigestionGames:

Fruity Fun: Apples to Apples Party Box

If someone you know does not yet have this game, this is a “must” gift.

Candy lover: Candy Land—The Kingdom of Sweets Board Game

Who doesn’t love a good game of Candy Land?

Famished Animals: Hungry Hungry Hippos

Another must have game for the game closet.

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The Real War on Christmas Is a War on Rights

Thursday, December 19th, 2013 - by Walter Hudson

Xmas

Proclamations of an ongoing War on Christmas have become an integral yuletide tradition. Typically evoked by socially conservative culture warriors, the “War” has found a new home as a rhetorical device on the political left. Take a look at this Smithsonian blog post, “Six Ways Climate Change Is Waging a War On Christmas.” Daily Kos joins others in characterizing Republican opposition to extending unemployment benefits as the “real war on Christmas.” One thing seems assured. Regardless of how pundits characterize it, the War on Christmas wages on.

As a rhetorical device, the War on Christmas proves interchangeable between political competitors because Christmas itself overlaps political boundaries. It’s not as though Christmas serves as the exclusive domain of social conservatives. When lodged by the Right, complaints about a War on Christmas thus miss their intended point.

Crafting “A Short History of the War on Christmas,” Politico recalls one of Bill O’Reilly’s first characterizations of the conflict:

“Secular progressives realize,” O’Reilly continued, “that America as it is now will never approve of gay marriage, partial birth abortion, euthanasia, legalized drugs, income redistribution through taxation and many other progressive visions because of religious opposition. But if the secularists can destroy religion in the public arena, the brave new progressive world is a possibility. That’s what happened in Canada.”

That was nearly ten years ago, and much traction has been made on most of those issues by the Left. The question for conservatives is whether the rapid change we have witnessed in society is truly due to a persistent campaign against religion, or whether something else may be at work.

The answer lies in an examination of the controversial separation of church and state. Travel in conservative circles for long enough and you will eventually hear someone claim no such separation exists. The phrase cannot be found in the Constitution, folks point out. Therefore, the notion of such a separation proves to be a wholly made up leftist lie.

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7 Swans a Swimming: A Gift Guide for the Nature Lovers

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Today is Wednesday, December 18, 2013.  If the “Twelve Days of Christmas” song was a countdown, today we would receive “seven swans a swimming.”

There are only seven days until Christmas!

Today’s gift guide is for the outdoorsman/woman in your life.

fmhunter1The Cozy-Factor:

Classic Jacket for Him: North Face Apex Bionic Soft Shell Jacket

100% windproof, warm, but not bulky.

Cozy Jacket for Her: North Face Denali Fleece

A great fleece that will keep her warm with or without other layers.

Base Layer: Under Armour Infrared Hood

For the outdoor adventurer who likes to push the limits of frostbite.

The Hot Hot Headband: Knit Winter Headband Ear Warmer

These headbands are all the rage.  They’re cute, come in many colors, and are a good alternative for hat-haters.

Smart and Warm Fingers: Isotoner Smartouch Matrix Glove

Keep fingers warm while using your Smartphone or tablet. (Here is the same gloves for manly man hands.)

Rainy Days, Warm Toes: Women’s Original Hunter Tall Welly Rubber Boot

Perfect for splashing in puddles or wading through winter slush.

81qK9eA7NUS._SL1500_The Helpful Gadgets:

Handy Bugs: Nite Ize BugLit LED light

A helpful critter to light even the most awkward spaces.

Hands-Free Illumination: Petzl Tikka Headlamp

Great for nighttime hikes.

DeFEETing Ice: Yaktrax Pro Traction Cleats for Snow and Ice

Stay upright this winter.

A Raincoat for your Electronics: Waterproof Pouch Case for Smartphone

Keep your precious phone dry while out skiing, ice-fishing, or hiking.

Swiss-made: Victorinox Swiss Army Swiss Champ Pocket Knife

Thirty-two tools.

tubbs_w_couloir_08The Other Fun Stuff:

Walk on Snow: Tubb’s Men’s Wilderness Showshoe

Great snowshoes for both experienced and novice showshoers. (Women’s Tubbs can be found here)

Ammo Storage: Plano Ammo Can (Field Box)

House your ammo and/or gun accessories in one place.

Old-School Fun: Trumark Slingshot

Unexpected but sure to put a devilish smile on their face.

For the Good Ole’ H2O: Nalgene BPA Free Tritan Wide Mouth Water Bottle

Dishwasher safe. Suitable for both hot and cold liquids.  Shatter Resistant.

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8 Maids a Milking: A Gift Guide for the Bakers, Bartenders, and Chefs

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Today is Tuesday, December 17, 2013.  The reverse “Twelve Days of Christmas” countdown indicates that we would receive “eight maids a milking” today.

This means that there are only eight days until Christmas!

Today’s gift guide is for the people on your list who are so in love with preparing food and entertaining that their blender has a name.  These gifts are sure to serve up some joy–as well as delicious dishes!

img81oFor The Frequent Baker and/or Adventurous Cook:

Scoop it: Le Creuset Silicone 7-Piece Utensil Set

Besides the ingredients and the will, every good chef needs the proper tools.

Prep it: Joseph Joseph Nest 9-piece Compact Food Prep Set

One can never have enough prep bowls. Joseph Joseph’s design allows all 9 pieces to be nested together for maximum use of space.  The brightly colored bowls are also a fun addition to any kitchen.

Slice it: OXO Good Grips Hand-Held Mandoline Slicer

Slice your ingredients ultra thin without cutting yourself.

(Don’t) Cut it: Cut Resistant Gloves (Level 5 Protection)

Keep your fingers safe while you chop.

Roast it: Stoneware 6-Piece 8oz Mini Cocotte Set with Cookbook

From molten-brownie desserts to mini pot pies, you can’t go wrong with this set of bright, durable stoneware.

Stew it: Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-iron Round French Oven

The infamous Le Creuset “dutch oven” is a kitchen classic and cookware essential.

Bake it: Doughmakers Grand Cookie Sheet

No burnt cookies! (I can say by experience that these really are the best.)

cuisinart_griddler_350For the Kitchen-Gadget and Appliance Lover:

Read it: ProAccurate Quick-Read Thermometer

Pen-sized. Digital. Easy to read

Whip it: Ozeri Deluz Milk Frother and Whisk (with 4 frothing attachments)

Froth milk, beat eggs, and whip dressings and sauces galore!

Grill it: Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler

This compact, counter-top grill has five functions: contact grill, panini press, full grill, full griddle, and half grill/half griddle.  The plates are even dishwasher safe.

cocktailFor The Bartender:

Whiskey: Sipping Stones—Set of Grey Whisky Chilling Rocks

Keep your whisky cold in style!

Martini: Stainless Steel and Pewter Martini Picks

Serve your guests martinis with a side of fun.

Wine: Fred Wine Line Reviews Wine Glass Markers

A quirky way to personalize your glass of wine.

“How to” Cocktails: Architecture of the Cocktail: Constructing the Perfect Cocktail from the Bottom Up

Impress your boss, friends, and family by making cocktails the RIGHT way.

Liquor: Visol “Raven” Stainless Steel Flask and Gift Set

A handsome way to carry your clandestine liquor.

Bottle Opener: Vertical Rabbit Lever Style Corkscrew with Foil Cutter

Opening wine has never been easier.

latte-tableFor the Caffeine Lover:

Espresso: Nespresso Essenza C91 Manual Espresso Maker

This espresso maker is compact and simple to use.  The Nespresso brand also has a great “menu” of espressos to choose from that fit your machine.

Tea: Kikkerland Robot Tea Infuser and Drip Tray

Who can resist this adorable robot?

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9 Ladies Dancing: A Gift Guide for the Kings and Queens of Beauty Products

Monday, December 16th, 2013 - by Becky Graebner

Today is Monday, December 16, 2013.  If we were having a literal, backwards countdown of the “Twelve days of Christmas,” we would all receive “nine ladies dancing” today. Newsflash, there are only nine days until Christmas!

Shopping procrastinators, overwhelmed list-makers, and confused uncles and aunts, listen up.  Although there is one fewer weekend in December this year, and Christmas shopping is sure to be even more hectic than usual, there is still a way to keep your sanity in tact!

Take back some Christmas peace and quiet and make your shopping painless. Here is a gift guide chock-full of holiday cheer and guaranteed smiles for some of the people on your list:

The Beauty Queen/Well-Groomed Man

For that person in your life who loves all things beauty and grooming—from head to toe!

best-of-drugstore-beauty-products-intro-slide

For The Ladies:

Skin: Clarisonic Mia Skin Cleansing System

Beauty aficionados know that beauty starts with healthy, glowing skin.  (This is also a good gift for the males who love a deep clean, skin deep.)

Nails: London Butter Nail Polish Set

High-end, high-pigment nail color that is sure to make their fingers and toes sparkle.

Make-up: Bare Minerals Starter Kit

Bare Minerals powder system has good coverage–but without the thick, goopy foundation mess. This is a good starter kit for those who are curious about the “mineral powder craze” or want to try something new!

Lips: Frola Cosmetics Professional 66-Color Lip Gloss Palette

So many color options, so few days of the week!

Hair: Moroccan Oil Hair Treatment

This stuff really is a miracle worker—smooth on wet or dry hair for a silky smooth finish and frizz control. (Also available for curly hair)
For The Gentlemen:

Shaving (Manual): The Art of Shaving Starter Kit

The lucky person on your list who receives this gift is sure to become addicted to the products. My male friends especially rave about the “sandalwood” scent kit.

Shaving (Electric): Philips Norelco SensoTouch 3D

This bad-boy came highly recommended by the gadget gurus.

Cleansing for the traveling man: Men’s Jack Black Cleansing System

All the essentials for face, hair, and body and it’s great for frequent travelers who need to take better care of themselves.

Men’s Face Mask: Baxter of California Clarifying Clay Face Mask

Purify and invigorate your mug. You can’t go wrong with Baxter of California.

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Does New Honda Commercial Promote ‘a Culture of Rape’?

Monday, December 16th, 2013 - by Dave Swindle

elfcommercial

Just received this morning from a reader via email:

Amid all the problems of the world in India and elsewhere:

Just in time for the holidays, Honda has a new ad trivializing rape for its commercial gain.

In the cartoon, two men are depicted lowers a restrained man, who takes the place of a angel to top a tree. One of two workers  says, ‘we might have to twist him on.’

This is not only tasteless but entertains a culture of rape. Even the most radical feminist should stand against this, as women suffer disproportionately from acceptance of this culture.

Please help take a stand up  against this by taking the lead and cover the story.

I am sure your viewers would applaud taking a stand against this.

What do you think? Should one “take a stand” against Honda’s PG-13 rated double entendre type joke in an effort to reduce rape?

Or are there pieces of media that inspire much more crime and chaos than holiday car commercials? Like the Koran, perhaps?

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What Really Matters At Christmas? It Might Not Be What You Think…

Saturday, December 14th, 2013 - by Rhonda Robinson

bythefire

My daughter hung our Christmas stockings on the mantle this week.

Sitting in the living room, watching the fire and enjoying its beauty made me rethink Christmas.

What is Christmas really about?

I know the right answer. The right answer is that it is about Luke 2:11, the birth of Christ.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”

King James Bible “Authorized Version”, Cambridge Edition

And yet, most will agree that December 25th is not the day of Jesus’ actual birth. When you take into consideration that it holds many pagan traditions, it draws lawsuits like bees to honey, and was almost trampled to death on Black Friday — it leaves precious little to embrace.

In spite of it all, it is a holiday that still holds deep meaning.

Years ago a Jewish girlfriend told me that they celebrated Christmas. Although they were capable of buying their children the best of everything this family had a strong work ethic and taught their children to work and save for what they wanted. “Christmas,” she confided “is the one day of the year I can spoil them. I can buy them the things I want to give them.” For their family, it had absolutely nothing to do with Christianity. However, they embraced the holiday to celebrate one another.

Before you head to the comments to accuse them of only using Christmas to indulge materialism, that’s not it at all. Face it, good parents want to give good gifts to their children. It’s just built into us. However, good parents don’t routinely indulge their own need to give. They understand the harm overindulgence brings. Christmas allows us to celebrate those we love through gifts both material and giving of ourselves.

When my daughters were little, and money was tight, I would buy them each a “Christmas dress.” They were usually collected throughout the year at garage sales. We would spend hours the night before putting their hair in curls. Then on Christmas Eve dress up in their pretty new dresses. Later that night they could unwrap “one” gift. The rule being, Mom picked which gift they could open. It was always a new pair of pajamas.

Truth is that both the Christmas dresses and new pajamas was all a set up. I was staging them for pictures then and in the morning. Don’t get me wrong, they loved getting all dressed up, and looked forward to the new PJs. But, for me it was all about creating and capturing the memories of their childhood.

It wasn’t long until they outgrew velvet and bows. So one day I tore all their Christmas dresses into shreds.

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