10 Unique New Year’s Eve Traditions from Around the World

NYEIn the United States, we’ll use any excuse to celebrate and the new year is no exception. We watch the ball drop in Times Square, make resolutions and eat different food for good luck. But other cultures and countries have very different customs for ringing in the new year. Here are 10 unique New Year’s Eve traditions from around the world.

  1. Scotland The first person to cross the threshold of your home on New Year’s Day is thought to be the bringer of good luck for the coming year. This is called “first footing.”
  2. Belgium On New Year’s Day, children craft special letters to their parents. It’s something like a Valentine — they create a collage of angels, cherubs and roses — and then read the letters out loud to their parents.
  3. Denmark They save their chipped and otherwise unwanted  dishes to throw at the doors of friends. Whether or not this determines your luck for the year is uncertain, but the pile of broken dishes you have at your doorstep on the last day of the year is a measure of how many friends you have.bells
  4. Japan Don’t be alarmed when the temple bells don’t stop ringing! That’s 108 chimes from the Buddhist temples. Each ring represents temptations to resist in order to achieve peace of mind.
  5. South America New, colorful  underwear for the new year is a must. If you want love, wear red underwear. If it’s financial success you need, yellow underwear is what you need. For peace, stick to white underwear.
  6. Greece To bring wealth and success for the coming year, it’s customary to crack open a pomegranate on your doorstep before entering your home on New Year’s Day.
  7. Ecuador Everyone cobbles together paper dummies — similar to scarecrows — to represent all the  bad luck and disappointment of the last year. At the stroke of midnight, everyone sets their dummies on fire in the streets.
  8. Hapy-New-YearGermany They look to lead to determine one’s fortune in the new year. Molten lead is poured into cold water. The shape it takes — a heart for marriage, circles or spheres for good luck and the shape of an anchor for bad luck — predicts what your year will bring.
  9. Switzerland They drop dollops of whipped cream on the floor and leave it there. It’s thought to bring good fortune for the next 365 days.

Whether or not you believe cultural customs guarantee good luck for the year, a new year is as good a reason as any to make a fresh start. Here’s to a happy 2015!

Our Favorite Carolers

December 20 is Go Caroling Day! So put on your warmest coat, do some vocal exercises and prepare to drink plenty of eggnog to wish your friends and neighbors a merry Christmas through songs. Caroling is a tradition we don’t see too much anymore. In fact, outside of TV commercials, you may have never experienced getting together with friends and going door to door to sing good tidings to your neighbors. Here are some of our favorite carolers to remind you of why we should keep the tradition going on Go Caroling Day!

caroling-minionsMinions Who can resist the sweet one-eyed faces of minions with delightful voices to match? Even if you can’t understand what they’re singing, this video will not fail to make you smile.

Random Acts of Caroling A few ladies in Detroit tried to bring the tradition back last year — with their own twist. They got in a car and picked out businesses around Detroit to spread holiday cheer.

caroling-britney-spears-ellen-degeneresBritney & Ellen In its prime, caroling was a surprise act of good cheer to your friends — carolers knocked on an unsuspecting neighbor and they’d open the door to “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” or “Do You Hear What I Hear?” What’s surprising than that? Britney Spears and Ellen Degeneres appearing at your doorstep to sing Christmas songs.

Flash Mob Caroling Flash mobs and Christmas caroling aren’t new, but it never gets old. One of the Internet’s favorite is from 2010 at a Redondo Beach, CA mall. It’s not quite the same as a group of people showing up at your doorstep unannounced, but if spreading joy is the purpose, it did the trick.

Caroling-Magical-TruckMagical Christmas Caroling Truck If you live in Southern California, you may know about the Magical Christmas Caroling Truck. Since the mid-1980s, carolers have been hitching a ride in a 62-foot trailer draped with in a Christmas light display that would make Clark Griswold jealous. It’s a delight to everyone on the Toluca Lake and North Hollywood route. It’s not traditional caroling, but it works magic.

The tradition of caroling doesn’t get as much play as it used to, but it’s a custom we don’t want to forget. If you have a warm sweater, a good hat and friends with musical talent, restore the old tradition on Go Caroling Day!



Holiday Indulgences: Our 5 Favorite Holiday Treats

Tis the season for indulging in everything sugary and rich! We don’t eat this way all year (nor should we!), but as long as the holidays are here we may as well eat the best of the best. This week The Lakeside Collection is having a cookie swap so we’ve been scouring Pinterest for the cutest and tastiest recipes we want to try and trade. Here are our 5 favorite holiday treats from Pinterest.

donut-hole-snowmenDonut Hole Snowmen How adorable are these? This one comes from Danelle at Let’s Dish Recipes. They actually look like little snowmen! But the best part is, there’s no baking required! So even if you’re not a master baker, you can bring these to your next holiday gathering. Everyone will be impressed and all you have to do is build a snowman with sugar.

Cheesecake-BitesGingerbread Cheesecake Bites These tiny cakes have all the tastiness of cheesecake with a holiday accent! This recipe comes from Diane at Created by Diane. These are easy to make, but the recipe does require that you turn on your oven — if you can do that, you can make these tasty treats.

Reindeer-TreatsReindeer Treats From the crafty minds at Lil’ Luna, we have no-bake Reindeer Treats! This one might be a fun project for the kids — all you need are salty pretzels, sweet Rolos, red candies, and time for crafting. Whether you’re going to an adult party or you’re entertaining children, these treats add just a little more joy to the festivities.

wreath-cupcakesWreath Cupcakes Turn on the oven and break out the mixing bowls for these cupcakes! Cake, frosting, fruit by the foot and a few M&Ms are magically transformed into a wreath! This one comes from Your Cup of Cake where they know a little something about cupcakes. They’re simple to make, but it make take a little extra time to make these sweet treats.

reindeer-chowReindeer Chow Forget Chex Mix this season — Reindeer Chow is the snack of choice for crowds this season! The Budget Savvy Diva is the brains behind this brilliantly festive treat. If you have can run a microwave, you make this recipe!  Or, if you want to pass the activity on to your kids, it’s easy enough for them to make with just a little bit of guidance.

There are so many treats we are dying to try at The Lakeside Collection! Check out our Pinterest page for more ideas for fun treats and easy eats this holiday season.

3 Holiday Gift Ideas For Dogs

Dog-BallThe holidays are the best time of the year, and it is important to include your pets and the pets of friends and family. Every dog from a teacup pup to a big and rowdy retriever deserves something under the tree or tucked in a stocking. Here are our favorite gift ideas for dogs.

Toys For so many owners, pets are part of the family. It makes sense to delight them the same way you would a child—with toys! In addition to being fun, toys stimulate your dog’s mind, promote exercise, and discourage destructive behavior. Go big with a Giant Ball Dog Toy, or give them something to really chew on with a Set of 2 Rope Head Dog Toys. There are even holiday-themed toys for extra seasonal fun.

Dog-treatsTreats Humans know the holidays are a time of special foods—many of which are not safe for dogs. Give your pet a taste of the festivities with fun treats made just for them. Look for something from a dedicated canine bakery. This box of
gourmet dog treats
features snacks that look like cookies, as well as sophisticated “puppy fours”. If you prefer the homemade approach, make some special snacks at home with a Bake-a-Bone™ Dog Treat Maker. Whatever you decide to treat your puppy with, make sure it is safe for dogs and does not include ingredients that are dangerous for dogs.

Dog-Calm-CoatCold-Weather Gear While they may seem like pure whimsy, sweaters and coats for dogs are functional, as well as cute. Many short-haired dogs of breeds created in warm climates live in cold places. Winter’s chill can be as uncomfortable for them as it is for you. It makes dogs reluctant to go outside for exercise. Don’t forget booties to protect delicate paw pads from frozen sidewalks and irritating ice melter. Although dogs cannot see what they look like when dressed to go outside, they surely will love the attention they will get wearing adorable winter clothes.
Having dogs in your life is something that makes every day of the year a little brighter. Make the holidays shine for them with a thoughtful gift and a scratch behind the ears. It is a wonderful way to show them how you care!

The History of the Brownie

BrowniesNational Brownie Day is December 8th — it’s a day on which we should all take a moment to honor one of the finest chocolate confections ever invented. There are many versions of the brownie — they come topped with frosting, sprinkled with powdered sugar, filled with nuts, or swirled with caramel — but the alleged original recipe wasn’t quite like what we eat today. Because The Lakeside Collection is based out of Chicago, we hold a special place in hearts for the brownie as Chicago is the birthplace of the brownie, according to legend. Here’s a little history of the brownie.

The original brownie was conceived by a pastry chef at The Palmer House Hotel in Chicago’s Loop during one of the most significant events in the Midwestern mecca’s history — The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition (The World’s Fair). This particular World’s Fair celebrated the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the New World. The fair lasted five months and attracted more than 27 million visitors. The fair introduced major innovations in the world that we still use today: spray paint, fluorescent lights, the moving walkway, the Ferris Wheel, and Juicy Fruit Gum among others.Brownies

As legend has it, Bertha Palmer, the wife of dry goods salesman and owner of the Palmer House Hotel, Potter Palmer, was a legendary socialite in Chicago in the late 19th century. Every day was an event for the World’s Fair and Bertha needed a portable sweet snack to fit in boxed lunches for her lady friends as they attended the fair.

What the hotel’s pastry chef came up with is what they still serve at The Palmer House today.

Here is an updated twist on the original brownie recipe:

BrowniesBrownie Ingredients

  • 9 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
  • 2 sticks butter, melted
  • 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cups chopped walnuts

BrowniesCherry Glaze Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup cherry preserves
  • 2 tsp unflavored gelatin powder


Preheat the oven to 325℉.

In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients (except the walnuts). In another bowl, combine butter and chocolate and mix well. Whisk in eggs, one at a time. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture.


Pour the brownie mixture in a prepared 8”x8” pan and spread it evenly. Sprinkle the walnuts over the batter. Let them sit on top — they will sink during baking. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. It will be bubbly. Slide a paring knife around the edges and let it cool a little bit while you make the glaze.

browniesFor the glaze:

In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the water, cherry preserves and gelatin. Bring to a boil and let it bubble for two minutes. Remove from heat. It will be runny. Pour the glaze over the brownies while the glaze is hot. Cool completely. Place in the freezer for 3 to 4 hours or until it’s completely frozen. Let it thaw slightly before slicing and serving.

These brownies aren’t like the brownies we know today — they’re not as chewy, but they are certainly as delicious and they’ll satisfy a sweet or chocolate craving. But whether you want to know what 19th century socialites were eating at The World’s Fair or you just want to indulge in something chocolatey, Brownie Day is as good of an excuse as any to bake up sweet treats.


6 Personalized Presents to Fit Just About Anyone on Your List

Coming up with the people to put on your holiday gift list is easy; making those gifts unique is a different kind of task. We’ve come up with a few items to make each of your gifts exceptional and personal. Here are 6 personalized presents to fit just about anyone on your list.

Personalized-pet-furniture-coverFor the Furry Friend The Personalized Pet Furniture Covers gives a dog or cat owner peace of mind when the pets jump on the couch. The furniture cover protects upholstered sofas, couches and chairs from soil, pet hair and scratches with the personal touch of their beloved pet’s name. The quilted, throw-style cover fits almost any size and style chair, loveseat or sofa.

Personalized-sleeping-bagIndividual Nap Sack This Personalized Sleeping Bag is perfect for sleepovers, camping trips or hanging out in the living room!  Soft and warm, it is sure to keep them nice and cozy. Rolls up and easily fits in the included carrying tote making it convenient for traveling and adding a name to be stitched in makes it practical and personal.

Personalized-pendantPersonal Pendants For your spiritual loved ones, have their names added to the Personalized Cross Pendant for a unique and unforgettable present. The shimmering yet subtle pendant has a cutout cross that can be worn every day or on special occasions.

Adorable Dolls Make this holiday extra special for the little girl in your life with a Personalized Holiday Rag Doll. She’ll love playing with this adorable rag doll with her name or her favorite name embroidered on to the doll’s dress! Dressed in a holiday romper, this doll will make Christmas morning one your little girl won’t want to forget.

Personalized-babyPersonal Pajamas Personalized Infant Long Johns are a cute gift that will keep them cozy. These charming long johns are perfect for taking naps or crawling around the house on Christmas! Personalize the back flap with a name or a cute phrase like “Baby’s First Christmas” to make the season memorable.

Personalized-sibling-tshirtCollectively Cute This Personalized Sibling T-Shirt is a perfect gift for a new big sister or brother, as well as for the new addition to the family! Personalize each with either “little,” “middle” or “big” and the child’s name. It looks adorable and makes a great photo op when siblings wear these shirts together.

The Lakeside Collection has hundreds of other gifts to choose from. Whether you want to make your gift personal or you want to make it practical, we have gifts to suit any personality.

5 Things You Need to Know About Cutting Down Your Own Christmas Tree

Christmas-TreeThanksgiving is this week, but the festivities are just beginning! After the big meal on Thursday, get your Christmas act in gear, starting with the Christmas tree. Artificial trees are great — no mess and easy storage — but if you want a full-family-Christmas-experience, you can go a step further than shopping for a tree on a lot: you can cut one down yourself. Here are 5 things you need to know about cutting down your own Christmas tree.

Dress Appropriately Christmas Tree farms are out in the middle of the country which means you’ll be out in the cold while you hunt for the right tree, cut it down and pack it on to your car. This could take you a few hours so remember to dress for cold weather! Wear a heavy coat, outdoor shoes, a hat, and good gloves for handling a tree. A fleece jacket and knit mittens aren’t going to cut it.

Use a Saw When you think of cutting down a tree like they did way-back-when, chopping it down with an ax is a logical way to think about taking it down, but it’s not practical. It’s messy, it will take a long time for someone who’s never cut down a tree before and it can be exhausting. Bring a chainsaw or a handsaw with you. Some farms don’t allow chainsaws (the fastest, neatest way to cut a tree down), so call or email ahead to make sure you’re bringing the right saw.

Christmas-TreePacking Equipment Bring plenty of rope, twine or bungee cords to secure your tree to your car. If you’re driving a long way out to select your Christmas tree, you’ll be driving a long way back and you want your tree to be tied down tightly as you’re cruising down the interstate. If you have a tarp, wrapping your tree up will help protect your tree from drying wind and protect your car from getting scratched.

Know the Size You Need When you look for your tree, don’t guess-timate the height of your ceilings. A towering tree in your living room won’t look very big against a blue sky. Make sure you have the right size for your house — it will save you time, energy and the headache of having to adjust the size of the tree once you get home and it won’t have to become part of your outdoor holiday decor.

Christmas-TreeShake it Off If the Christmas tree farm you go to offers a shaking service, take advantage of it. A good shake gets rid of more than loose needles — it gets rid of critters, too. Farm mice won’t mind trading their tree house for your house — if you let them.

Cutting down your own Christmas tree is a big project. If you have the time and the energy, the experience will be worth it and it will make your holiday that much more memorable. Once you get it standing and decorated, you’ll want to keep it up well into the next year!

Say Hello with a Gift on World Hello Day

World Hello Day is November 21, and it is a perfect time to promote peace and friendship by just reaching out and saying “hello” to people you know and strangers alike. Sometimes, a small gift can help you greet someone. Here’s how to say hello with a gift on World Hello Day:

Jumbo-NotebookStationery A wonderful way to say “hello” is to give someone stationery they can use to send their own greetings. The Jumbo Notepad and Pen Gift Set is a stylish pair that will get them writing immediately. For the more communicative friend, the 10-Pc. Book of Sticky Notes is an impressive pack of 500 sheets of notes. Each pad is beautifully designed and come in a take-along case. An address book will help them keep track of friends and family so they can pass along a warm “hello” of their own.

glass-paperweightGive Them A Welcome There is an almost endless variety of gifts and home accents that carry the message of “welcome”. A doormat that says “welcome” is a wonderful way to say hello to a new neighbor. Give an Inspirational Glass Paperweight that says “Welcome Friends” to an officemate or teacher to spread the word “hello” and the welcome good feeling.

LOAF-pansBaked Goods Nothing makes a person smile the way an unexpected treat does. Put together a plate of cookies and pass them out at work to to greet your work friends and spread cheer. You also can whip up beautiful loaves of bread in the Holiday Loaf Pan Set for a jolly and seasonal gift. If you are not a gifted baker, pack the Set of 12 Snowman Treat Boxes with wrapped candies and hand them out with a smile.

The Lakeside Collection has a variety of ways to say hello to celebrate World Hello Day. Whether you want to share some snacks or make a big impression, you are sure to find just the right gift at an incredible value.

5 Ideas to Keep Kids Busy on Thanksgiving

girl-helping-thanksgivingYou will soon be welcoming friends and family to your home to share your Thanksgiving feast. Putting together a turkey dinner with all the trimmings is ten times as much work as your regular weeknight dinners and loads more people walking in and out of the kitchen eating, drinking and chatting. With all the kitchen chaos, keeping an eye on the kids and making sure they’re happy is tough as you juggle all the elements for the perfect holiday dinner. Here are 5 ideas to keep kids busy on Thanksgiving.

Reindeer Games Have a few games and puzzles pulled out for the kids to play. Don’t give them too many options — three or four games you know they like (not one you have to teach) is plenty to keep them distracted from their rumbling tummies as you put the finishing touches on the meal. If there are kids coming that your kids don’t know well, games are a good ice breaker and will get everyone interacting with each other. If you’re lucky, they’ll enjoy the games enough that they’ll return to them after dinner.

Thanksgiving-Table-topDuty Calls Give each child a job to do. For the younger children, assign them simple tasks like folding napkins or making sure the spoons are shiny. For older kids, give them the big duties that require critical thinking — put them in charge of the checklist of all the things that need to be done and have them make sure everyone is staying on task. For children of ages in between, have them set the table, greet friends and family at the door and take their coats. Giving kids a hand in the event makes them feel part of the production while giving them something to focus on rather than watching TV while you work.

Letters to Santa Thanksgiving is the perfect time for the kids to write their letters to Santa. Set aside plenty of paper and pens and catalogs (for inspiration) so they can put together their wish lists. For young guests, it will get them excited and distract them from the idea of being in an unfamiliar home. For the kids who no longer write letters to Santa, have them help the younger kids craft the perfect letter to old St. Nick.

Clever Crafts If there are a lot of kids coming over to share your holiday, set up a craft table with Thanksgiving themed projects to work on while the adults socialize and get the turkey on the dinner table. Have the older kids help the younger kids to make it a family activity. A craft table might seem like too much to take on, but giving kids something to pay attention to and work on will save you the headache of coming to the rescue when they get bored. kids-crafting

Last Resort The TV can be tricky when there are a lot of kids with different personalities — you don’t want any clashing over what to watch. Let them turn on the TV, but only give them a few, non-negotiable options for watching TV. Limit the programming to holiday movies or specials. If you have to turn it on, it should be something for everyone to enjoy.

Planning activities or crafts for kids during Thanksgiving is a big task to add to your Thanksgiving plate, but reducing the risk of boredom and tears makes the overtime worth it.  If it’s not doable, pass the job off to one of your guests a few days in advance. Anyone who’s hosted a big Thanksgiving will jump at the chance to help out.

Happy Thanksgiving planning!

6 Games and Puzzle Stocking Stuffer Ideas

The holidays are here and gift shopping is well underway! Though we’re looking forward to the holidays, this week we’re celebrating Games and Puzzles Week. To share our competitive spirit with you, we thought we’d give you a few stocking stuffer inspirations. Here are 6 games and puzzle stocking stuffer ideas:

Dont-Count-On-ItDon’t Count on it! Don’t Count on it Gift Card Puzzle is the gift for them and a gift for you! Slip your gift cards or cash into this wood puzzle and watch your kids struggle to free it! It’s a sneaky way to disguise a gift and everyone comes out a winner with this one. It includes instructions for how it works and how to unlock it. Reuse it for years of creative gift-giving. For ages 8 and up.

Brain-BenderMind-Bending Play For the loved one who loves to exercise the mind, try filling his or her stocking with the Bamboo Brain Bender Puzzle. Made from one of the most renewable woods on the planet, this 3-D puzzle gives the brain a serious workout — there’s only one way to solve the puzzle! The complex design makes putting it back together an all-day challenge for even the sharpest of players! For ages 8 and up.

Twisted-FarkelThe Game for Underdogs The rules are in reverse for this dice game! For the Twisted Farkel Dice Game the winner is the player with the lowest score. When a player rolls, the points go to someone else — the die labeled the “Determinator™” decides who will get that score. The first person to reach 10,000 points actually LOSES the game! It’s crazy, mixed-up family fun for ages 8 and up.

Dont-Tip-the-CowsThe Tip You Don’t Want Don’t Tip the Cows Stacking Game gives “cow tipping” new meaning. The idea is to stack as many cows as possible without the cow pile tipping over. The game includes 18 adorable, stackable cows in a travel-friendly tube. For 2-3 players ages 5 and up.

Playing-CardsPortable Play with Personality Everyone needs their own set of playing cards and with Licensed Playing Card Set, they can play cards with The Beatles, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, or John Wayne! The cards come in a collectible tin and feature pictures of the pop culture icons on every card. The set comes with two poker-sized decks of coated cards.

Gift of the Future For the teenage girl who wants to know her future, finding the Wishcraft Fortune Telling Game in her stocking is like striking gold. Psychic Pendulum predicts your future with a crystal pendulum and mystery board, while Tarot Cards uses a deck of cards, and Wishing Heart is an update on the classic fortune teller. For ages 7 and up. Special Buy–Limited Quantities Available!

There’s a lot of celebrating ahead of you, but adding Games and Puzzles Week to your list makes holiday gift shopping easier and we can simplify it even more. Be sure to check out all of our gift ideas at The Lakeside Collection as the countdown to Christmas continues.