Etiquette: What to Wear to a Wedding

Wedding

When attending a wedding, it is a sign of respect towards the happy couple to wear the appropriate clothing. Some cultural and religious groups have specific standards as to appropriate wedding attire, while others are not as strict on what you are allowed to wear. Emily Post, adviser on all things etiquette, gives the instructions for guests on what to wear to a wedding.

  • Formal daytime wedding – Women should wear a cocktail dress or dressy afternoon dress. Men should wear a dark suit coupled with a conservative shirt and tie.
  • Formal evening wedding – Women should wear a long evening dress or fancy cocktail dress, depending on local customs (gloves are optional). Men should wear a dark suit, or a tuxedo if the invitation specifies “black tie.”
  • Semi-formal daytime wedding – Women should wear a dressy afternoon dress, suit, or pantsuit. Men have the option of a dark suit OR a blazer and gray flannel pants with a tie.
  • Semi-formal evening wedding – Women should wear a cocktail dress or dressy pantsuit. Men should wear a dark suit.
  • Informal daytime wedding – Women should wear an afternoon dress, dressy skirt, or pants and a blouse. Men should wear a sport coat or blazer with slacks (tie optional).
  • Informal evening wedding – Women should wear an afternoon or cocktail dress. Men should wear a blazer with gray flannel pants or slacks (tie optional).
  • For women, hats or head coverings are optional, unless required by the house of worship or at the bride and groom’s request.

wedding-cakeWhat should you never, EVER wear to a wedding? Some say that’s a matter of personal preference, but Emily Post suggests otherwise. Here is her list of clothing items to NEVER wear to a wedding:

  • Clothing that is skimpy, provocative, suggestive, obscene, or just in poor taste.
  • Costumes – UNLESS you have been notified that it is a costume wedding and everyone else will be attired in costumes as well.
  • Blue jeans and t-shirts. Avoid denim in most cases; a denim skirt, shirt, or jacket is most likely not appropriate.
  • Any jewelry that calls attention to your own faith while attending services for another faith. It is important to have your own beliefs, but there is a time and a place for making a statement about religion, and someone else’s wedding is neither that time nor that place.
  • Baseball caps, sport caps, large decorative hats that block others’ lines of sight. Those are appropriate at the Kentucky Derby, but not at someone’s wedding.
  • Casual shoes or boots worn with formal or semi-formal outfits. Perhaps you forgot your fancy shoes at home – run out to Target and buy a pair of heels instead of wearing the dirty tennies you found in your trunk.
  • Sunglasses worn indoors (unless you have a valid medical reason for doing so).
  • Boutonnieres and corsages (unless supplied by the hosts).

If you follow these fool-proof guidelines, you will be an enjoyable member of the happy couple’s special day, instead of an eyesore who causes a distraction!

This post was written by a guest contributor for The Perfect Card Box, creators of patented locking wedding card boxes and card holders for all occasions.

Tips to Transform Your Shed

A shed isn’t just for tools – it can be recreated into a place to escape – perhaps a man cave, TV room, or a study. The key to making it comfortable is to make sure everything will fit. Here are tips to transform your shed into a living space.Shed-on-water

Make Adjustments Throw out junk and broken items and organize your accessories or anything you use regularly by adding shelves or hooks. There are many stylish shelves, which can enhance the theme of the shed. Only add accessories you really need. Adding too many accessories such as lamps, stools and pictures will make the shed look smaller.

Think Small Add smaller sized furniture instead of bulky pieces. A chair and ottoman would take up less space than a couch. A high top table with two or three chairs will work in place of a regular-sized table. Folding tables or small nested tables can be tucked away when they’re not in use. Hang pendant lights from the ceiling if the shed is too small for end tables and lamps.

Color Coordinate Use light colors on the walls and floors to give the illusion of a larger shed. You can also try painting the ceiling and walls the same color to make it look more spacious.Large tiles or wood on the floor also create a feeling of openness. Add a window to the shed to bring in natural light, which gives an appearance of more room.

 

10 of the World’s Favorite Snacks

Pretzels-crackersWhen you’re hungry there’s nothing like a quick fix in snack sized form to make you a lot happier. When reaching for that vending machine or taking a trip down to the store you can be sure there’ll be a variety of munchies and one person will seldom choose the same snack as the previous one. So, in this list we’re going to try and choose some of our favorite snacks – no arguments please!

Pop-Tarts It’s simple really, unwrap and stick in in the toaster for a couple of minutes – what comes out are gooey in the center with a crisp outside that’s covered in sweet icing. They’re easy, yummy and super-fast and certainly one that has to be included in the snacking list.

Oreos A favorite for over a century now, the Oreo with its chocolate outside and creamy center are the perfect accompaniment for milk and in our opinion the best cookie ever.

Chips Chips are list toppers worldwide. Whether it’s Lays, Pringles, Doritos or otherwise – there’s little to compete in terms of universal favorites. Who doesn’t like chips whether in plain form, with a creamy dip or gone all healthy with some hummus.

Breakfast Cereal The meal that’s been specified with a title to dictate when it should be eat, simply because if it didn’t we’d eat it all day long. Cereal is quite a catch-all terms but in fairness there’s so much out there to choose from, it takes seconds to prepare and it’s also filling. Perfect, morning, noon or night and often it’s even nutritious.

Nuts Of course, if you’re trying to go that little bit healthier then nuts might just be the perfect food – plain ones that is – a lot of them are covered in salt among other additions. From a packet, a vending machine or a tub – the selection is endless, as often seem the flavors.

Fruit Healthiest of all on the list and to be completely honest often the tastiest and most sought after snack, albeit a very healthy one.

Ritz Crackers America’s favorite snack supposedly and one that’s tasty alone, works well with some fillings, cheese or also this next favorite.

Nutella Oh my! Where would we be without the famous hazelnut and chocolate spread – it certainly is amazing stuff. Just the one spoon you’ll say to yourself before you hear the metal clink off the glass at the bottom twenty minutes later – addictive stuff.

Jelly Beans All the colors of the rainbow, with all the flavors of a supermarket – jelly beans are a firm favorite in the snack list and very popular at tubzvendingfranchise.co.uk. Their color, taste and the variation makes them something we relish the chance of eating when feeling a little naughty.

Peanut M&Ms You’ll notice there’s been a few nut based foods on our list, as well as a couple of chocolate orientated ones too. M&Ms offer the best of both worlds – colorful, crunchy and with a quality nut center.

Of course, there’s so many snacks we’ve missed out on in this list – however these are our favorites – don’t hold them against us and go ahead and let us know what you like when you’re feeling a bit peckish.

 

Basics About Outdoor Furniture

Couple-on-patioOutdoor living spaces have become increasingly popular over the past decade. People are extending the area for relaxing and entertaining without going to the expense of building an extension on their homes. Beautiful outdoor furnishings transform decks, balconies and patios into comfortable living spaces. Knowing the basics about outdoor furniture makes it easy to choose the right pieces for your needs.

Plastic Outdoor Furniture

Going into a garden shop or furniture store can get confusing. There are endless aisles filled with outdoor furniture. Consider which type suits your budget and preferences best. Plastic furniture is popular because it is a budget-conscious choice. Plastic is lightweight and portable so it is easy to move. Usually plastic chairs can be stacked, which is a benefit if you have minimal storage space. The least expensive pieces tend to last for only a few years. Sturdy pieces are more durable and resist splitting. Plastic furniture is available in a variety of colors for all types of decorating schemes. It can be cleaned quickly with a bucket of soapy water and a brush.

Wicker Outdoor Furnishings

For centuries, people have enjoyed the rustic look of wicker outdoor furnishings. Wicker is woven tightly or loosely to create a myriad of appealing designs. Much like plastic, wicker is lightweight and easy to move. It might be made from synthetic materials as well as bamboo, rattan or cane. Most modern wicker furniture is weather-resistant. With the right care and storage, elegant wicker furniture can last for generations to come. Outdoor wicker furniture can be cleaned off with a gentle detergent and soft brush. A toothbrush can be used to clean in between the crevices. Surface dust on wicker pieces can be sucked up with a vacuum cleaner attachment.

Wood Patio Furniture

Wood patio furniture is great if you want a natural look that fits into the outdoor environment. Common types of wood furniture include redwood, teak and pine. Hardwoods such as teak and redwood can last for decades with proper care and treatment. Pine is a softer wood that is not quite as enduring as hardwoods. Wood should be treated with sealants and oils to extend its lifespan. People often choose wood because it does not hold the heat during the sultry summer months. Plastic and metal furniture can heat up quickly, especially if it is kept in direct sunlight. If wood is not sealed or painted, it can rot and splinter in a few years.

Metal Garden Furniture

Often parks and memorial gardens have wrought iron furniture because of its durability and heaviness. It can also be an attractive choice for your outdoor living space. You never have to worry about it blowing around on a windy day. The life of wrought iron furniture can be extended by painting it. Cushions make it more comfortable as wrought iron gets hot in the summer and cold on chilly days. Some people opt for wrought iron furniture because it can be kept outside all year round. Coated aluminum furniture is more lightweight and resists rusting or fading. Much like wrought iron, it tends to hold the current outdoor temperature. Cheaper aluminum furniture should be stored in the winter while heavier pieces can be left outdoors. Use soapy water and a hose to clean metal furniture.

Lightweight outdoor furniture such as wicker and plastic should be stored in a garage or shed during the colder months. Make sure furniture is clean and completely dry before covering it and storing it. Heavier pieces such as wood and metal should be covered during the coldest months. The cover should be properly fitted to the furnishings or tied down so it does not blow off. Adding luxurious outdoor furniture to your yard is the ideal way to extend your living area without moving into a bigger home.

Stacey Doyle writes about a variety of outdoor home decorating topics for Design Furnishings, one of the leading online furniture retailers in the United States. 

“Clue” In to Your Attic Style

Board-game-piecesThe attic—that dusty, creepy room that lurks at the top of your house. It may be a little spooky now, but with a little renovation it could be your next favorite place. To get some ideas for your attic redo, read about the characters from Clue and decide who you identify with most.

Ms. Scarlet

Ms. Scarlet is…well, sexy and she knows it. Young and attractive, she knows how to turn heads. And of course she knows how to dress well.

To tap into your inner Scarlet, transform you attic into an extra master closet. A refurnished attic is an ideal space for anyone to house an expanding collection of clothes, shoes, accessories, and makeup. Hang rods at an angle from the sloped ceilings for clothes. Leave plenty of floor space for shoes and plush benches to try them on. Hang a large mirror at one end of the room for applying makeup and making sure you always look glamorous.

Mrs. White

Mrs. White is usually portrayed as the frazzled servant. Cleaning all those rooms and dealing with difficult guests would wear anyone out. If you relate to Mrs. White, your best bet for reinventing your attic is to turn it into a relaxing escape. Build a workout room, a yoga room, or simply an extra bedroom where you can escape for some down time.

Mrs. White is typically shown as an older woman, old enough to have grandchildren. If you are aging gracefully and have grandchildren yourself, a playroom is another excellent option for your attic. After refinishing the room, cover the floors with rugs or carpet (since kids spend a lot of time on the floor) and be sure there are plenty of cubbies and shelves for toys.

Colonel Mustard

Colonel Mustard is an adventurer. He has a military background and loves hunting. Naturally, he has a great deal of military memorabilia and hunting trophies to store. A strong (some would say stubborn) personality, Colonel Mustard would never consider putting his treasures in cramped, dusty boxes where they could not be viewed.

If the Colonel Mustard in you has collected a lot of items that you love but don’t have room for, consider turning your attic into a combination storage-and-display room. When you refinish your attic, incorporate shelves, tables, hooks, and cubbies into the plan so that you can arrange your treasures and collections without cluttering up the rest of your home.

Miss Peacock

Miss Peacock is a supremely aristocratic lady who is sometimes cast as a busybody. A wealthy widow, she had several husbands who died mysteriously.

If you have some valuables that you want to keep safe, the attic could be the perfect place. Most burglars head for the bedroom first, as this is where most valuables are kept. The attic is out of the way enough that a burglar would be unlikely to search there. (Just be sure your attic has sufficient insulation or your Burlington painting and other paper-based treasures could be warped by weather.) Add a touch of secrecy by creating a secret space in a floorboard, in a wall, or in a fake book. You can never be too careful!

Mr. Green

Mr. Green is a shrewd businessman—and any clever businessman needs a smart office. To turn your attic into the perfect work space, take advantage of the angles of the room. Shelves built into walls and corners will hold books, papers, and office supplies. Ensure that your office has plenty of light and outlets, as well as access to the internet. To brainstorm all of your brilliantly cunning ideas, create a whiteboard on one wall.

Professor Plum

Don’t take offense if you feel that you identify best with Professor Plum. Though he is a bit absent-minded and klutzy, he is also widely regarded for his intellect. And what would an intellectual be without his library?

An attic provides an excellent retreat for a library. Build shelves directly into the walls as a charming way to save floor space. Cover the floor with rugs and pillows so readers can make their own reading nook wherever they like. Be sure there is plenty of natural light or reading lamps and add a fireplace to make the room even cozier.

After considering which Clue character you are most like, play around with different attic renovation ideas to suit your personality. Revamping your attic may be one of the best moves you ever make!

Edson Senna is a freelance writer who specializes in home improvement and business. He gets many of his home improvement tips from companies like Reitzel Insulation. In his spare time, Edson enjoys running, biking, and reinventing various spaces in his own home.

4 Simple Dietary Changes That Support the Environment

More than three-quarters of Americans claim to be eco-friendly, yet when they consider their lifestyle a quarter of residents realize they do very little or nothing to protect the planet. It’s tough to remember to bring grocery cloth bags to the grocery store, and installing solar panels seems like a lot of work. But what if you knew that some simple dietary changes could have a big impact on the environment? Read on to discover the easy ways your plate could help the planet.

Embrace Meat-Free Monday

The environmental case for adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet is pretty compelling, but this change can be tough for the committed carnivores around the country. A much simpler approach is to experiment with a meat-free diet one day a week.

If everyone in the United States left meat off of their plate once a week, we’d save 100 billion gallons of water, which is enough to serve all the homes in New England for nearly four months. We’d also save 1.5 billion pounds of crops, which could feed the state of New Mexico for a year rather than hungry livestock. It would also reduce our country’s carbon dioxide emissions by 1.2 million tons, which is as much as France produces.

Vegetable rich pastas, soups, risottos, and salads taste so delicious, you probably won’t even miss your steak! Try experimenting with a range of mushrooms if you’re craving the earthiness of meat.

Choose a Non-Salt Water Softener

Water is one of the most commonly used elements in the kitchen, a base for stocks, sauces, soups, and beverages. However, more than 85 percent of American households have hard water, which can clog pipes and leave unsightly residue. Many households install a water softener to solve this problem, but many of these units also take a toll on the planet. To reduce the environmental impact, consider a non-salt water softener instead.

The waste water created by conventional water softeners is rich in chloride, which can harm plants and wildlife. A typical water softener can easily generate 600 gallons of waste water every year, so the impact of this refuse can’t be underestimated. The carbon footprint created transporting heavy bags of salt to the units should also concern sustainably-minded consumers.

Non-salt water softeners treat the water supply without stripping it of beneficial minerals including calcium and magnesium. That makes them a smarter choice for your health, your pipes, and the planet.

Eat Local Produce

Produce-market

A study by Toronto’s Food Share found the average North American meal contains ingredients from five different countries, which adds up to some serious food miles. Research suggests most American food travels almost 1,500 miles before it’s consumed. Compare that with a meal created from meat, fruit, and vegetables bought from the local farmers’ market. Altogether, that locally-sourced dish’s ingredients have traveled just 60 miles to get to your plate.

The importation of food is now the largest component of air freight, which generates more pollutants than any other form of transportation. The carbon footprint gets even larger when you consider the need for extended refrigeration and packaging.

So bypass the supermarket and start visiting your local farmers’ market instead. The produce you’ll find here is much fresher and more delicious. Your market purchases also support the planet and your region’s farmers.

Choose Whole Foods

Health professionals have encouraged us to steer clear of processed foods and choose whole foods for decades, but eco-warriors have a new reason to heed their advice. These foods also take a real toll on the planet. Food production and supply accounts for 19 percent of America’s energy use. The bulk of this energy is used producing and packaging convenient, yet unhealthy, processed foods.

So steer clear of the frozen food and confectionary aisles and spend more time loading up your kart with whole foods like fruits and vegetables, rice, and oats. Cooking from scratch takes a bit more effort than microwaving ready meals, but the planet, and your waistline, will thank you for it.

You are what you eat, but the planet is too. Make these simple dietary changes to show your support for the environment.

 

6 Smart Tips to Keep Your Life Balanced

Busy-MomWe live in a fast-paced world where deadlines and quick production drive businesses to success. If we are not careful, we can get caught up in the frenzy of the job and end up feeling overwhelmed, tired and completely out of energy. In extreme cases, many of which are more common than we might realize, the stresses of everyday labor and life can cause physical health problems, mental health issues, and family breakdowns. What can you do to find the perfect balance?

1. Set Limits and Boundaries

Whether you have a demanding job working as a professional in an office environment, or you work from home, it is important to set boundaries for yourself. Boundaries help define how you take charge of your day, meet the demands or needs of others, and help you get in touch with your own feelings. Setting limits show others what you are willing to accept, both professionally and personally, and help you know when to say “no.” Boundaries are absolutely necessary to have a successful work and life balance.

2. Create Time for Yourself

Whether you want to be a good parent, a good partner, a good employee or all three, setting aside a moment for yourself is essential. Maybe you need to relax for an hour every day doing yoga. Maybe you like to read for 30 uninterrupted minutes before bed. Whatever the case may be, carve out that “me” time and stick to it to relieve tension and minimize daily stresses. You will not only be a better you, but your professional and personal life will benefit, too. After all, you can’t do your best until you take care of yourself first.

3. Set Priorities

Prioritized lists and calendars can help you stay on track and accomplish your daily goals. When you run short on time, you will be able to see what is absolutely necessary and what can wait until tomorrow. This is where your smartphone and computer can operate in tandem. Use of the phone’s/computers “sync” feature will allow both to automatically update when a calendar or reminder feature is changed.

4. Consider a Life Coach

When you do become overwhelmed with juggling too many work and family needs, you may want to consult a life coach for advice on how to find a better balance. These mentors can help you determine priorities both at work and at home and can guide you in the right direction when you feel lost. These types of professionals also offer emotional support when you need it most.

5. Be Flexible

Being flexible may be your greatest asset when you are trying to find the perfect balance between home and family. Anyone who has children knows how important it is to be flexible, because plans can change at a moment’s notice when a child gets sick or needs something that can’t wait. Remind yourself that things won’t always go exactly according to your schedule and that’s OK, as long as you can bounce back quickly and move forward.

6. Plan Quality Family Time

When work becomes demanding and professional pressures seem too big to manage, make sure you plan some quality time with the people you love most. Giving your children and partner full attention helps you all live in the moment and enjoy the time you spend together. Leave your cell phone at home for an hour and listen to your kids or your spouse instead.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by your job, your family obligations or anything else, take action before it begins to affect your physical and mental well being. Try incorporating one or two of these tips into your busy schedule. You just might be amazed at how making a couple small adjustments can have a positive effect on your overall health and happiness.

Writer and retail worker Regi Waters has often bemoaned the lack of time in her daily schedule for social activities. Her beau and many area karaoke clubs have suffered at the neglect, while her career has thrived. A recent illness compounded by stress had her seeking a Noomii life coach to get herself on the right track.

7 Expenses to Make Any Vacation More Relaxing

VacationEveryone likes to save money when they travel; though the expense is often necessary and always worth it, if you can save money and cut expenses you might as well—usually. Some things are actually worth shelling out the cash for, simply because they nip stress in the bud and allow you to enjoy your hard-earned vacation all the more.

Here are seven expenditures worth the expense, for the sake of your peace of mind:

Good Locks

There’s nothing to ruin the relaxation of a vacation quite like the worry that your home will be burgled while you’re gone. Even if you are the meticulous type, checking the locks at least twice before you leave, it’s all too easy for toxic thoughts of “I did lock up, didn’t I?” to pop up uninvited while relaxing by the pool. And even if you aren’t plagued by those thoughts, there’s always a chance that the locks could be broken or disassembled by a particularly determined thief.

If you’re thorough in your pre-departure lock checks but still anxious about the structural integrity of your locks, you may want to get them inspected by a locksmith. Edmonton or any other city should have professionals who can schedule a consultation and inspection.

A Suitcase of Distinction

That beat-up duffel bag was fine for college, but now you deserve a suitcase that is more durable and professional. But that doesn’t just mean basic black! The more distinctive your luggage is, the less likely it is to be stolen or lost.

Choose luggage in a color that suits you—even lime green or baby pink can work on luggage as a solid color choice! Make sure the luggage is well-made; hard cases should be constructed of quality materials and structurally sound, and softer suitcases should be well-stitched.

A Reliable Guide

The best way to know you’ll get the most out of your vacation? Get the best tour guide you can!

This doesn’t always mean the pricier tour buses advertised by brochures at your hotel desk (though some of the tours advertised there are fine). One of the best ways to see the best of a foreign city and its surroundings is to hire a local taxi cab driver to show you the best the town has to offer from the local perspective. Why pay to see just one aspect of the Genoa-Portofino area when you can zip along faster than the local speed limits (like a local) and see the best of this part of the world from a true expert?

A Camera up to Your Par

This will mean different things to different people. For most of us, it will mean our smartphones. It could mean a basic digital camera with extra batteries and SD cards. Or, it could mean a professional-grade camera with three different lenses.

Why is this so important? Because your enjoyment of this trip and the memories you’ll make on it will be significantly curtailed if you don’t have photographs you’re satisfied with, both in quantity (which is why you always bring extra batteries and memory cards) and in quality (which is why no photography aficionado should try to get by on their iPhone).

Authentic Local Cuisine

Yes, food is expensive and you can still survive on basic bread or fast food, but you could do that at home. Only in Italy can you have locally prepared squid ink pasta, only in Alaska can you eat red, native sockeye caught that very day.

It’s worth it to your wallet and your waistline to have locally prepared food when abroad; most cuisine and portion sizes, especially in Europe, are less processed and more reasonable than those in America. So indulge in baklava and pots de crème while you can—stressing over finding the cheapest food you can the entire trip will make you gain more weight than if you just eat and and enjoy!

The Souvenir You Really Want

Let me save you the debating over the price of what you really want versus the price of something cheaper or more practical. Yes, the thing you want seems terribly expensive now, but you clearly want it more than superficially if you keep going back to it, despite the cheaper price of some other items. If a souvenir is in a price range you can afford and you will use and/or treasure it, then it’s better to buy the one thing that will remind you of this trip in the best way, than multiple cheaper items you won’t care about in a month.

Airport Transportation

Getting from the airport to your hotel and back again can be stressful if you don’t know the area. Arrange in advance for transportation such as an airport taxi. Toronto, Salt Lake City, or any other city with an international airport should have multiple companies specializing in getting you too and from the airport on schedule, eliminating the stress of missing check-in or a flight.

Follow these tips for a vacation without stress or unnecessary corner-cutting!

Lucy Markham is an avid blogger and researches with companies such as Airflight Services. As a recent homeowner, Lucy considers herself a bit of an expert on all things home improvement, gardening, and home decoration.

5 Creative Ways to Spice Up Your Oatmeal

oatmealWhen it’s cold and no one wants to get out of bed, plain old cereal with milk isn’t going to be the thing that gets them up. The surefire breakfast for a blustery and cold winter morning is heaping bowl of creamy, slow-cooked oats. While going for oats au naturale is always a nice standby, there are lots of great things you can add to them to switch it up once in a while.

Here are a few incredibly tasty and soul-warming suggestions for making your oatmeal really sing!

1. Add lots of fruit

Yes, including blueberries and chopped apples in oatmeal is a classic way to go, but think about incorporating different varieties of fruit in your breakfast. Fruits like gooseberries, stewed rhubarb, and Asian pear can add some real complexity to the overall taste. Add it just after dishing up and fold it into the oats so that it’s slightly warm.

2. Include crystallized ginger

Crystallized ginger is ginger root that’s been peeled, sliced, and candied. The sugar in crystallized ginger mutes the normally biting flavor of ginger, making it great to use as an ingredient in sweet foods like quick breads and cake. Of course, it’s also very suitable for oatmeal! Just chop it up into strips and sprinkle. If you do use this ingredient, cut down on any additional sugar that you’d normally add, since it’s plenty sweet.

3. Use toasted nuts

Add a complex, roasty flavor to your oatmeal by toasting up a handful of walnuts, pecans, or almonds (or all of them!). Either pan-toast them or stick them in your oven to cook at about 200˚F until they brown. You can chop them up or add them whole. Nuts are a great source of good fats and protein and will make you feel fuller after eating.

4. Stir in homemade simple syrups

Your options are literally infinite when it comes to infusing your own simple syrups! While they’re great for mixing into cocktails, their day-to-day culinary uses should not be overlooked. Dissolve equal parts sugar and water in a pot set over a low flame and add something fun to the mix: things like jalapenos, dried lavender buds, mint, thyme, or orange peel would work really well. Substitute a tablespoon or so of syrup for your usual dollop of brown sugar, and the aroma will infuse throughout the oatmeal, giving it a beautiful scent and flavor.

5. Go savory

This might sound a little too out-of-the-box for you, but stay with me here. Savory oatmeal is an echo of rice congee, a dish that’s a breakfast staple throughout Asia. Take a cue from that iconic dish by cooking your oats with some star anise and then adding minced green onion, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes. Top it off with a fried egg and you’ve got a seriously rib-sticking breakfast!

Soleil is a former chef, with an encyclopedia of recipes floating around in her head. Nowadays, she applies her culinary expertise to the wonderful world of fancy picnic baskets.

The Case for Febgiving

Dinner-partyAs we enter the latter half of winter, it can be kind of discouraging to know that there’s not much holiday-wise to look forward to. All of the big ones have already passed, and the “fun factor” of Valentine’s Day isn’t quite as universal as we’d like to believe. Thus, it may be good for our collective mental health to consider a new holiday that’s been catching on: Febgiving!

At its core, Febgiving is a holiday for gathering up your friends and family to have a day of warmth and celebration despite the bitter cold. Consider it as a sort of pre-party for the end of winter and a surefire way to combat the season’s blues. Modeled on the luxurious feast that defines Thanksgiving, Febgiving, like most good holidays, is simply an excuse to eat and drink well in the presence of people you care about.

Not sold yet? Though the benefits to Febgiving are literally unending, here are a few choice reasons for you to jump on the bandwagon.

You don’t have to deal with tradition
Am I alone in my hostility toward whole roast turkey? It’s one of my least favorite dishes, but having a Thanksgiving dinner without it would invite endless scoldings and complaints from people who are devoted to it for the sake of tradition. That’s why Febgiving is so great: there aren’t centuries of tradition to deal with, so you can do it up however you want! Cook up a nice porchetta, some brisket, or quiche as your main dish instead — it’s all up to you!

You don’t have to invite everyone
One drawback to the major winter holidays is the feeling that hanging out with not-so-nice family members is mandatory. It’s sort of the price you pay for eating all of that good food. Since no one’s heard of Febgiving, you’re freer to decide who gets to come over and celebrate with you. You can make it a friends-only affair, or dine with a few close cousins instead of the whole clan.

Traveling is easier in February
Anyone who’s flown or driven to relatives’ homes during the winter holidays knows that it can often balloon into a huge expense. You have to budget for inflated airfare, airport snacks to eat during the inevitable delays, and extra gas for bumper-to-bumper traffic. The good thing about February is that it’s one of the slower times for interstate travel: you’ll get where you’re going faster and cheaper than in November.

It makes February a little less lonely
Though Valentine’s Day can be a lot of fun for couples, the flipside of it is that it tends to leave unpartnered people in the lurch. And since Valentine’s is really the only holiday in February, it can make the whole month feel like kind of a bummer. With Febgiving, you can extend the spirit of love to everyone in your social group, regardless of whether they’re coupled or not. Everyone wants to feel loved; especially in February.

Leftovers!
Do I even need to explain this one?

Soleil is a former chef, with an encyclopedia of recipes floating around in her head. Nowadays, she applies her culinary expertise to the wonderful world of fancy picnic baskets.