Monthly Archives: December 2012

Ten Gift Wrapping Tips and Tricks

Just in time for the holidays, here are ten tips to make your Christmas presents prettier.

1. For large gifts, try using two complementary papers. (Maybe a solid, and then a stripe with the solid color in it). Wrap the present in one, then cut wide bands from the second  paper and using double-sided tape, wrap each band across the top and down two sides.

2. Attach a party favor or a small gift to the ribbon to set the look off.

3. Sharp scissors (cut with flat side down), weighted tape dispenser and quality wrapping paper will make your job a  lot easier.

4. Buy personalized ornaments as gift tags. They’ll make your gifts special, and then go on the tree.

5.  Use colored masking tape instead of ribbon. You can lay it out in interesting patterns.

6. Giving a huge gift like a bike (or a car, stove, trampoline)? Keep the real gift hidden and wrap a toy version of the gift.

7.  Go eco-friendly! Use an old curtain or some left-over cloth to wrap a present,  an old poster, or use newspaper and decorate it with colored images from magazines.

8.  If you can’t wrap, or don’t have the time, buy reusable fabric gift totes. Just wrap your gifts in tissue paper, and put them in the tote! Couldn’t be easier.

9.  Make a beautiful bow: Using wired ribbon, tie the ribbon around a wrapped present. Make a regular bow. Then take two shorter pieces of ribbon and tie two more bows around the middle. Watch this tutorial for more info.

10.  Use a photo as the gift tag. Could be a childhood photo, or a vacation photo.

Have fun this year, get creative!

Melody, MagicKitchen.com blogger

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School’s Out – Christmas Holidays with the Kids

The holidays are a time for great food, cheerful Christmas decorations and spending quality time with your family and friends. There really is no other holiday that is as universally enjoyed as the Christmas season, particularly for the kids who are thrilled to stay goodbye to school for awhile, sleeping in, eating great food and getting into the holiday spirit.

Preparation plays a big part in getting ready for all the families get togethers, shopping for or making gifts and filling the house with Christmas decorations. Why not encourage the kids to play a part in the preparations? It’s the perfect time of year for the entire family to get in on the holiday fun. Following are just a few of fun things to do with the kids during the Christmas season.

Making the Holiday Goodies
Get the kids involved in preparing the holiday treats from everyone’s favorite snicker doodles and Christmas pies to holiday cutout cookies. Christmas cutout cookies are always good for a night filled with fun, creativity and of course tasting the yummy treats you’ve created together. Before the special cookie decorating extravaganza, have the kids help cut out the cookies, bake them, and then freeze until you’re ready to decorate. When you’re ready to begin, just line the dining table with a plastic table cloth, put out all the sprinkles, candies and colored icings and have fun!

Handmade Christmas Decorations
A wonderful project to do as a family is making special Christmas decorations together and dating them in honor of the year. There are worlds of ideas out there from buying ready made ornaments to paint, to purchasing Styrofoam shapes and attaching gum drops or just about anything you want from ribbons to family photos, to sequins or your favorite Christmas image. You can even use white paper and cut out snowflake shapes or make stockings out of felt and just about anything else; all you need is your imagination and a few craft supplies.

Christmas Holiday Outings
The Christmas season always comes with a lot of special family friendly things to do together. One of our favorites is piling into the car and visiting local neighborhoods showcasing elaborate Christmas light displays. Most local Zoos and botanical gardens also light their venues for the holidays with breathtaking displays. Other popular activities are dressing up and going to see a production of the Nutcracker, hitting the mall for photos with Santa or caroling through the neighborhood.

Toys for Tots
One of the best things you can do for your children is show them how to help the less fortunate during the holidays. Programs like Toys for Tots and other community held efforts always pop up this time of year, giving you the opportunity to teach your children the art of giving.

Christmas is a happy holiday season for most of us from the kids eagerly looking forward to being out of school for a bit, to the little ones excited about a visit from Santa, to parents and friends looking forward to spending time together, sharing a meal and a smooth cup of egg nog. What truly make the Christmas holidays special however is creating memories with the kids.

Cheryl, MagicKitchen.com blogger

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Christmas Home Decorating Ideas

There are so many wonderful things about the Christmas holidays, and getting the chance to fill our homes with dazzling Christmas decorations is at the top of the list. Cheerful decorations can be put just about everywhere and include themed Christmas trees and embellishments from traditional to modern.

There’s such a huge variety of options that can help make your home shine both inside and out with cheerful Christmas cheer, whether you are looking for a more religious décor or something that is simply colorful and fun like Santa and his reindeer, to something more modern like lining your roof edges with optically operated icicle lights. Then there’s everything from wreaths, tinsel, stars and garland to iconic images like manger scenes or Santa’s elves. Even though decorating your home for Christmas can be a time consuming process, it’s is a task that everyone seems to enjoy. After all, the holidays are about food, family, fun and let’s face it, jolly Christmas decorations; all of these together create the perfect recipe for a fantastic holiday season.

Christmas decorations are magical for those who get into them and they can create an image that represents the holiday spirit, turning your home into a winter wonderland that will brighten the lives of all those who enter. It can be difficult to choose which decorations to put in your home and help make it cozy, warm and colorful, but following are some ideas to help get you started.

• Start at your door. Add a wreath to your door and perhaps some poinsettia plants on the door steps.
• Use your lawn as a display of Christmas wonder that can be seen from the road.
• Get personal! The small touches from bows to bells will make your home stand out.
• Create a centerpiece for the dining room table.
• Dress up the mantle with cheerful figurines, stockings and candlesticks and you’ll get warm by the fire in style.
• Don’t be afraid to break traditions with your own unique tastes.
• Decorative Christmas throw pillows add a comfortable and beautiful touch.
• Garland, plain or with fairy lights can be used in many places including stairwells, doors, windows, etc.
• Color schemes are important. Stay consistent and build a designer quality holiday spirit.
• Lights have various patterns and designs. Get the ones that ideally accent your home.
• Presents under the Christmas tree add their own decorative appeal and perhaps a working miniature train set.
• Cluster various sizes of ornaments together and hang them from chandeliers.
• Use the windows as a display. Everyone can enjoy the decorations there.

There are tons of great ideas to consider during the holiday season and a lot of it comes down to personal taste, particularly when it comes to Christmas trees. Your tree can be festooned with ornaments that are basically family heirlooms, to your favorite cartoon characters, to elegant displays filled with designer ornaments and satin bows. Basically, when it comes to decorating your tree; do what make you and your family happy.

Luckily, while the decorations are up to you there are services that can make the other areas of playing host easier. MagicKitchen.com offers a wide variety of delicious ready made meals that are perfect for the holidays, providing that home cooked flavor that will thrill you and your guests, and leaving you with spare time to relax and enjoy the holidays; how cool is that?

Cheryl, MagicKitchen.com blogger

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Christmas Gifts for Seniors

Here are ten ideas for perfect Christmas gifts for that hard-to-buy-for senior in your life. You love them, you want to give them a gift, but they either have everything or they have downsized and don’t want anything else. So what can you give them?

1. A Smart Finder – this little device helps you find keys, books, glasses, whatever you might have lost in a senior moment.

2. Talking Wireless BBQ and Oven Thermometer – it gets harder to see small text as you get older. This eliminates the need.

3. Jigsaw Puzzle of the Month Club – Does your favorite senior love jigsaws? Keep them going all year with this gift.

4. MagicKitchen.com Gift Certificate – Delicious healthy meals delivered.

5. The Hurrycane – does your senior have arthritis, or another reason to need a cane? This is a new cane design they might just love.

6. Original Painting of their home – are your grandparents justifiably proud of their home?  They might love an original watercolor of that home.

7. Learn to drive Steam Train – Is your senior a train buff? Give them the thrill of actually driving a steam train with this “your hand on the throttle” experience.

8. Give a gift card that can be redeemed for things you can do with them.

9. Pikstik – For anyone who has problems reaching down or reaching things on a top shelf, this clever gadget is a must.

10. Gift of Service – There may be chores your elderly person can’t do. Make a gift of coming over weekly to mow the lawn, shovel the walk when it snows, or rake the leaves. You’ll be guaranteed a big thank you, and probably cookies!

Melody, MagicKitchen.com blogger

 

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World’s Most Expensive Wines

Image by hlkljgk

If you’re in the mood to relax, it wouldn’t be a surprise to find that your plans for winding down included a nice bottle of vino. Similarly, when hosting a dinner party, one of the first things you consider is the wine that will complement the food on your menu.

Such libations have always been an integral part of our culture in celebration, mourning, and even in the case of communion where wine forms an essential part of the ceremony and has important religious connotations.

Finer wines and knowledge of them in detail are also synonymous with wealth, and often representative of a more luxurious lifestyle. Here are examples of some of the most expensive wines in the world. Would you pay out for these?

1907 Heidsieck

One of the most expensive bottles ever sold, this wine was part of a shipment to the Russian Imperial family from 1916. It unfortunately never made it, as a crate of 200 of the bottles were discovered in 1997 by a wreck diver, and each one reportedly sold for around £170,000. The old wines are now being served to wealthy patrons of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Moscow.

1992 Screaming Eagle

This exclusive wine fetched around an impressive £300,000 at a charity event in 2008. The Californian Cabaret Sauvignon now sells for around $7,000 per bottle and is one of the most popular collectible wines. Starting this year, Screaming Eagle will be producing a wine

red wine
Image by Yashima

named ‘Second Flight,’ which will make its debut sales starting at $225. If you like a good red to fit with a fancy braised beef dish, then look no further!

1787  Chateau Lafite

Château Lafite Rothschild is a wine estate in France which has consistently produced one of the world’s most expensive red wines.

Unfortunately no longer drinkable as time has turned it to vinegar, this bottle was sold in London for collection purposes at $160,000. The bottle was a Bordeaux and sports the initials ‘TH.J’ etched in the glass for Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the US who had previously owned the bottle.

2004 Block 42

Contained within a protective glass-and-metal cone and a glass ampoule hand blown by an Australian glass artist; the cabernet sauvignon is reputedly the only wine bottle in the world without a cork or screw top.

A 750ml bottle costs around £109,000. Produced from a single vineyard, every unit bought comes with the guarantee that Penfold’s chief winemaker will fly out to the destination of the purchased bottle and open it in a special ceremony.

1961 Pétrus Vintage

Of the high status wines available, the Pétrus Vintage is widely considered one of the best. It comes from the Bordeaux region of France from the right bank of the renowned Gironde River. The lot sold in auction at Christie’s New York went for an impressive $144,000, and has set a world record for being the most expensive Pétrus wine ever sold at auction.

Let us know your favorite wines through the comments below!

Elise Lévêque is an ambitious French born freelance translator. She loves nothing more than a good wine, and in her spare time writes for Loveglass. She has expensive taste in good food and better furnishings; her favorite kitchen feature is her brand new glass worktops!

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10 Reasons why Gift Certificates Make the Best Gifts

Are gift certificates good or bad? We say good! The complaint is that they are impersonal, like giving cash. But we say a gift certificate is a gateway to a myriad of choices, and a pleasure for those who like to shop. Here are 10 reasons gift certificates make the best gifts.

  1. With all the new tech gear out there, everyone has their own favorites. Especially for teens, let them pick their own.
  2. Gift cards are the gifts that give twice! First when you receive it and again when you use it.
  3. For students, giving a gift card for essentials, like gas, groceries (or MagicKitchen.com prepared meals) is very welcome. Their budgets are often tight!
  4. Someone like to read? My husband of 27 years can pick books for me, but without that kind of investment in time, it’s a hard thing to do. Book lovers would adore a gift certificate to their favorite bookstore.
  5. Know their favorite restaurant? Then giving them a gift certificate to that restaurant qualifies as a loving gift!
  6. In this day and age, when people have bought themselves just about everything they need or want, a gift card can be very thoughtful. At least you can be reasonably sure the recipients get something they want.
  7. A day-spa gift certificate to someone who loves to be pampered is a wonderful gift. If you’re good friends, buy one for yourself and do it together!
  8. Used to be that when you got a gift certificate, you had to drive to the store and look around to see if there was something you wanted. Not anymore! Online shopping rules!
  9. For someone you don’t know well, like a teacher, mailman, someone who works in the other corner of the office, a gift card to somewhere like Amazon can be a perfect gift.
  10. And finally, if you buy a $100 MagicKitchen.com gift card between now and November 15, 2012, use promo code GIFT to get 10% off!
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Some Like It Hot…Cocktails That Is!

With the holidays just around the corner, it’s time to start planning special parties and events that capitalize on all those good tidings and feelings of joy. If you will having your own holiday get-together, you will certainly want to present the perfect cocktails – drinks your guests will be talking about long after the party is over. And what says “Holidays” better than a steaming hot beverage laced with alcohol? Here is the information you need to know to make the perfect hot cocktails for your Christmas, Hanukkah or New Year’s Eve party.

The Right Combination of Ingredients

There’s an art to making the perfect hot cocktail and it involves blending together just the right amount of ingredients. You don’t want drinks that are too strong with alcohol nor should they be overpowered by sweet ingredients as that will tend to make your concoction syrupy over time. Particularly for the holiday season, a blend of sweet and spicy is perfect (think hot buttered rum or spiced apple cider).

The Right Amount of Heat

As you may know, alcohol burns off if it is heated to the boiling point. This often happens if you use a kettle on the stove to warm up your cocktails. A better way to get them to just the right temperature without boiling is to use an electric tea kettle with a warm setting or a slow cooker with a low heat seating. Either of these appliances help you get the drinks hot then keep them at just the right temperature so guests can partake as often as they wish throughout the night.

The Right Presentation

When it comes to hosting fantastic holiday parties with hot cocktails, presentation is everything.

While the drinks are keeping warm in your vessel of choice, float a few slices of lemons or oranges on top (great with spiced cider). You may want to add a handful of cloves, a few sticks of cinnamon or a couple star anise pods (perfect for hot buttered rum). Fresh cranberries are a great addition to a hot, fruity drink. Serve any of these choices in a tall glass mug; for extra embellishment, glue a sprig of holly and tie a tartan plaid ribbon to the base.

If your specialty party drink is based on hot cocoa, try serving it in solid white mugs. Top the alcohol-infused cocoa with a pretty dollop of whipped cream and dust it with more chocolate or cinnamon or a sprinkling of peppermint candy pieces. Add a cinnamon stick or candy cane as an edible stirring stick.

Holiday parties cry out for special cocktails. Warm up your party drinks and warm up your guests so they are fortified to face a cold winter night.

Featured images:

Damien writes for Social and Cocktails, the perfect place to find recipes for hot cocktails.

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