Food for a Good New Year

Bowl of Noodles with ChopsticksAlmost every country and culture focuses on special foods to bring good luck as the New Year starts. In the United States, a favorite southern staple is black-eyed peas due to their abundance, made into a dish known as Hoppin’ John.

Long noodles are a common choice in Asian countries and cultures, representing a long life. It is important not to cut or break the noodles to ensure the longest life possible.

MP900405246Fish is a popular choice in China since the Chinese word for fish resembles the word for abundance. Note that the fish should be served whole – head and tail included – to make sure the year is a good one from beginning to end.

Leafy greens such as kale, mustard and collard greens are consumed in Europe because they resemble paper money. The story is the more you eat the more cash will come to be in the next year. Lentils are eaten in Italy and Hungary because their shape and green color resembles money. They also get plumper when you add water, signifying growing wealthier.

MP900382807In Turkey, pomegranates are consumed for good luck. Prosperity comes from the many round seeds, the red color stands for life and they also represent good health.

Other round fruits such as oranges or grapes are often eaten at the start of the new year, with the tradition of consuming either twelve of them for the twelve months of the year. In the Philippines you need to eat thirteen fruits for good luck. Cakes – particularly those that are round or shaped like rings are also a common good luck food – sometimes with a coin baked into the cake to give luck to one recipient during the coming year.

Whatever tradition you follow, here at Fulton Homes we hope you have a happy and healthy 2015!

 

Specializing in Leftovers

DSC_0132Holidays are all about abundance – particularly with food. But often having more than enough means days of leftovers after the event is over. What can you do to distract the family from one more turkey sandwich? Here are a few suggestions to make leftovers part of the celebration rather than a burden to get through.

Freeze for later: Although your family may currently be sated on holiday fare, a few months from now an encore meal or variation of the original may be welcomed. Consider freezing some of the turkey sliced, along with a couple of scoops of dressing and a side of cranberry sauce. Later you can turn these three items into scrumptious sandwiches. Use sturdy bread such as a crusty roll or a French baguette. Lightly spread both sides with mayonnaise and layer the turkey and about a half-inch of dressing on the bottom half, topping with a light layer of cranberry sauce. This sandwich is an award-winning combination for a national sandwich shop that you can recreate for a cold-weather treat.

Reinvent a tradition: Turn that extra turkey, vegetables and mashed potatoes into a variation of shepherd’s pie. Mix chopped turkey, any leftover veggies – adding some if needed – and top with the leftover mashed potatoes in an open casserole. Bake to warm and broil the last few minutes to brown the top. Serve it with the leftover gravy.

Treat your guests: Pre-plan to share your leftovers with visitors. If you purchase a selection of different sizes of disposable plastic containers, you can mix up an additional holiday meal for your guests who don’t tend to cook at home. Walking away with another meal ready to heat and eat can be a real blessing to those with limited time, resources or inclination to cook for themselves. And for you and your immediate family, the leftovers will be gone by the end of the day.

If you think of leftovers as an opportunity to be creative and try new approaches, you can turn something that’s a challenge into a bonus that benefits everyone after the holidays are over.

 

Traditional Holiday Foods

002Every family has its holiday favorites. Some go for traditional turkey and dressing, or choose fancy with a standing rib roast or honey baked ham. But whether you always serve that infamous green bean casserole or change side dishes every year, food is an important part of every holiday.

Even more important, the preparation and serving of holiday family dinners may contain traditions you are less aware of, but which are just as important for everyone. It pays to look at those unspoken traditions to make sure that they serve your family well.

How are you passing your traditions along to the next generation? Now everyone loves Aunt Francis’s dinner rolls and Uncle Bob’s turkey gravy, but are the kids getting a chance to help bake and make these family favorites? By including some of the younger members of the family in the preparations, you help ensure that future generations will enjoy the same tastes that delight them now long after the instigators are gone.

You may also find that the standard recipes no longer serve your family as well. Old-style heavier meals may be too much for today’s diet and nutrition goals. While the holidays are certainly a time to indulge a bit, how about adding some lighter fare so that people can balance their enjoyment with some attention to good eating habits. For example, you could replace the cheese and cracker appetizers with vegetables and a tasty yogurt dip, letting people fill up while leaving the calorie-intense foods for dessert.

Holiday food traditions are for enjoying and sharing with others. Remember to plan ways to pass those traditions along with each generation, along with making changes that suit your family’s needs and the overall shifts in how we’re eating now. And above all, enjoy the process of preparing and indulging in your family’s traditional holiday feasts.

 

Setting up a Holiday Tablescape

Legacy Models 068How would you decorate this dining space for the holidays? Here are a few suggestions.

Choose one or two colors, a neutral, and one metallic hue: In this room, silver seems like a natural choice thanks to the chandeliers and grey tones. Silver can link everything together. For the same reason, white or ivory would complement the space. From there you could do the traditional red and green colors, or jump into something more daring like purple or even hot pink and lime green. This room can handle the brighter colors, so take advantage of that to add drama to your tablescape.

Don’t stop at the table: In this room, the trees by the wall would benefit from some mini-lights and small ornaments. Think about adding some special touches to the chandeliers. (For more ideas on that, see our last blog.) The buffet could be a source for additional decorations that complement whatever you choose to do to the table. You could even change out the throw pillows on the two sofas for some that suit your holiday look. Once again the grey palette opens up a world of possibilities.

Keep your centerpiece low or set between chairs: You want to make sure everyone at the table can see everyone else, so plan a centerpiece that allows that. This long rectangular table gives you the opportunity to create a landscape of flowers, greens, ornaments, candles and other accessories. By using the buffet to hold serving dishes you have more room for decorations on the table itself.

Consider the chairs: These contemporary chairs with neutral grey upholstery provide the perfect space for a final holiday touch. It’s easy to tie some wide ribbon around the chair backs with a nice bow at the back of each one. Costco offers great prices on wire-edged holiday ribbon in two and three-inch widths. Choose one that works well for your holiday plan, and you will have plenty to use throughout your home.

Your final touch? Add the food – tables always look better with something to eat nearby!

 

Decorating lighting fixtures for the Holidays

Legacy Models 069With lush lighting fixtures such as these two from the O’Connor model at Legacy, it’s tempting to make them part of the season by adding a holiday touch. Here are a few suggestions to make these lights reflect the holidays.

Holiday greens: Look for a garland that matches the style of your holiday decorations. You could choose real greens such as the red cedar garland available at Trader Joe’s this time of year, or just pick up some of their two-color holly. Use fishing line or ribbons to attach it under the lights of the chandeliers above.  For the photo below, drape the greens along the cross-beams above the lights.

Legacy Models 073Ribbons: You could tie some lovely red, green, gold or blue ribbons around the shades on the chandelier above to create an understated but festive touch. To contribute a bit more drama, tie a few to the loops under the lights and let them hang down to the table, maybe even puddling on the table itself or stopping just above your centerpiece to connect your lighting to your holiday tablescape. Ribbon loops could run across the crosspieces of the more contemporary light fixture below also.

LED lights. Add lights to your lighting with some of the new battery-powered LED lights in white, colors or even multicolored options. Hide the battery pack within some greenery and let the mini-lights swirl and drape around the structure of each chandelier.

Ornaments: One simple but effective approach would be to choose some favorite ornaments and hang them from the supports of each chandelier. Once again this addition is understated but would pull your lighting into the season. Why not bring the holiday to your home’s lighting, allowing it to shine with the rest of your home.

Decorating your Home for the Holidays: Living and Family Rooms

   DSC_0139When you have a generously-sized living room and a large family room such as in this home, the O’Connor model from Legacy, how do you bring in the holiday spirit without looking skimpy or overwhelming your home with cheer? Here are a few approaches for decorating both rooms while maintaining the style of your home.

Choose one room as holiday central for your home. This involves the tree you will be unwrapping presents under, the location for family holiday meals and any other traditions that suit the season. You can still decorate other rooms in your home but this gives you the flexibility to be understated in all but one area.

Replace current accessories with holiday elements rather than just adding them in. If you keep your home’s current décor in place while adding holiday pieces, your home can look too cluttered to be festive. Instead, pack away some or all of your everyday vases and other accessories to leave room for holiday items.

Add greenery. This is particularly effective in more formal contemporary spaces such as the living room above. Many stores sell fresh greens at this time of year. You can combine several types of greenery to make a splash For example, this living room could stay as-is and still feel like the holidays simply by adding pine and two-color holly around the silver candleholders on the coffee table and on the side tables. Add a few holiday ornaments to the tree on the right and this room is finished in an elegant and effective way. You might want to take advantage of the new battery-powered LED lights to add a spark to the greens.

Models 085This family room can support a large tree. You might one consider 8-9 feet in height to take advantage of the ceiling. The area to the right of the television provides a natural spot for a tree. Remember that you want to provide plenty of seating nearby. Don’t hesitate to rearrange the furniture to make the space work better with a tree. For example, you could move the checked chair on the right closer to the sofa and move the entire seating arrangement a bit to the right which would allow the tree to become the focal point of the room for the holiday season.

Whatever you decide, have fun with your decorations and they will help you set the stage for a lovely holiday.

 

Decorating the Exterior of your Home for the Holidays

Models 070With the expansive exteriors of Fulton Home’s new Legacy community, the traditional wreath on the door may get lost. Here are a few suggestions to create a festive exterior for your new Legacy home.

Start decorating before you get to the door. You could place wreaths on the front of the matching columns to start setting the mood right away. The symmetrical arrangement supports carrying a doubled theme from the front pillars right to the front door.

Models 090Go big. Look for oversized wreaths and decorations. Before you shop, measure your front door and decide what size range would work best.

Go for multiples. One option is to purchase a number of large poinsettias from Costco or a similar retailer and place two on either side of each stair. You would create a sea of red holiday charm all the way to your door. If you would rather use smaller plants, you could line the walls with them or even place them in the planters shown in the top photo.

Consider luminaria. For a spark of charm consider lining your walkway and walls with many luminarias – a common holiday decorating choice in the Southwest. These simple decorations – just brown paper bags partially filled with sand with a lighted candle inside – could be used to outline the dramatic arrangement of the landscape and walls surrounding the front of your Legacy home.

No matter what decorating choice you make, your home will be lovely and ready to entertain family and friends this holiday season. For more on the Fulton Homes Legacy community, visit us online at: http://www.fultonhomes.com/our-communities/freeman-farms/legacy.

 

Valentine’s Day Solo

12632055_SIf you find yourself without a significant other this Valentine’s Day, there are better ways to spend it than by feeling sorry for yourself. You can have a lovely day celebrating the person who should mean the most to you – yourself. Try these ideas to make your day special.

Splurge: You don’t need someone else to buy you your favorite chocolates, perfume or other favorite purchase. Let go – within reason – and buy yourself a favorite indulgence.

Share: Do you have other friends who also have no one to spend Valentine’s Day with? Why not plan a party with them? You could splurge on a happy hour or dinner at a favorite restaurant and follow up with chocolates and popcorn at home with a movie like Sleepless in Seattle and plenty of tissues.

Think of others: Are there people you know who may be having a tough time? Maybe it’s the lonely elderly couple next door or the single mom who never has a minute to herself. What can you do to brighten their Valentine’s Day? A batch of heart-shaped cookies and an understanding ear may be just the thing to make them feel special, and you may find yourself feeling better too.

Change the rules: The best way to meet someone is through your friends. You could throw a get-together party. Have every one of your single friends bring a guest of the opposite sex. Plan plenty of fun and silly games and events to get everyone comfortable. It’s a fun way to spend the evening, and you never know; someone at that party may connect with someone else. You may even find the person you will end up spending Valentine’s Day with next year!

Planning a Valentine’s Day for Two

18493048_SYou can always go to a nice restaurant for dinner, pick up a Hallmark card, and look forward to your favorite chocolates and maybe some roses.

This is such a common approach to Valentine’s Day that restaurants will be crowded, roses cost a fortune, and even chocolates are so much pricier than they should be when they come in a heart-shaped box. How about a celebration for the two of you that is as individual as you are instead? The simple ideas below can help you plan a great evening.

Set the stage: Candlelight is never out of place. If you have a fireplace, be sure to light a small fire for the ambience. Fresh flowers are always nice, but pick something unusual rather than roses. How about orchids or daffodils?

Make it unique: Do you always eat at the kitchen counter? Then how about setting the dining room table for two? You could always plan to sit on the floor on pillows at the coffee table or throw a blanket on the floor in front of your fireplace or a window with a view. How about dining outside with just candlelight to make the space feel like yours alone?

Plan for two: Make a meal of small bites of finger food, with a variety of favorites for both of you. Add a bottle of sparkling wine if you drink, or some sparkling fruit juice or water if you don’t. Be sure to include a favorite dessert. Include foods that bring back memories of previous events in your shared lives.

Remember: This is a special time to share memories of your life together. Tell each other stories, and take the time to remind each other why you fell in love in the first place. You may find yourself creating the best Valentine’s Day ever.

Plan a Progressive Neighborhood Party for New Year’s Eve

MP900309664While it’s fun to go out for New Year’s Eve, too many partiers make the roads dangerous. So consider a fun option instead – a progressive party in your neighborhood to recognize the year’s change.

Living in Arizona we actually have two time choices to celebrate the transition: we can stick with midnight or take advantage of the ball dropping in Times Square at 10 p.m. our time to wrap up the evening early. This is particularly useful if you are including children.

To plan the evening, recruit hosts that live close by. Include your street or cul-de-sac and maybe one or two other adjoining blocks. For the event itself, if you’re wrapping up at 10, you could start at 7 p.m. Plan to stay at each house about 45 minutes. The first two homes with times of 7 to 7:45 p.m. and 7:45 to 8:30 p.m. could each offer a signature appetizer and beverage. 8:30 to 9:45 might be dessert, and the 9:45 home could feature champagne and sparkling cider while everyone counts down the ball dropping.

To make the evening extra festive, add noisemakers and hats at various homes. Your group could also sing a chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” as midnight approaches. Print some copies of the song’s lyrics so everyone can join in together.

After the party is over, you may find that neighbors are friendlier since they’ve had a chance to get to know each other better. It also gives new neighbors a chance to get acquainted. This could become an annual event on your block and lead to other social events in your neighborhood.