How to Be a Great Host During the Holidays

Making your house feel like home to you can be easy. Yet, why can it seem like such a terrifying task to host others? The challenge is all in your mindset. The key is to make your home feel welcoming and like home to them. With great hospitality and a welcoming environment, you can make your house feel quite comfortable to anyone you host, and here is how:

Be the Hostess with the Mostess

This tip should go without mentioning, but treat your guest with the utmost respect. Indulgencing your guests with excellent hospitality is the best way to help them feel at home. Understand that you may need to encourage them to ask questions that they may be uncomfortable to ask. Offer drinks, seating, and activities during their stay. Lastly, remember that your home should be spic and spam before your guest’s arrival.

Diverse Variety of Snacks and Drinks

For holiday events, you will most likely be eating. It is essential to know your guest’s preferences. Have a plethora of foods and drinks readily available. Also, be sure to place out snacks before and after dining as well. Today, it is not uncommon for food allergies or intolerances. Try to know your guests and what allergies they may have. All these fine details can help your guests feel more welcomed at your home during the holidays.

Accommodate if Guests Are Spending the Night

You are responsible for your guests’ safety. Be cognitive if your guests are drinking. Be prepared to accommodate driving or sleeping arrangements. If you know your guests are going to spend the night, have a fully-prepared guest room. You should have your guest room prepared with clean sheets, towels, and pillowcases. It may be best to show your guest their room and bathroom arrangements before the night begins so that they can tuck away their belongings and clothes.

Do not stress about hosting guests, instead have fun with it. Arranging plans for the evening can be split between the different individuals attending. With a little extra effort, your guests will remember the experience you provided for years to come. Enjoy the holidays and Happy New Year.

Holiday Meals for the Entire Family

The holidays are full of memorable events, but nothing brings a family together like food. Sitting down with your loved ones and sharing a meal brings a sense of togetherness and evokes feelings of thankfulness and comfort. It provides the assurance that the people who have gathered with you are full and happy.

Today, cooking a holiday meal that can be eaten by the entire family can be a difficult task. Beliefs, preferences, and allergies can make catering to everyone’s needs frustrating and nearly impossible. Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives out there that can be used to make holiday dishes available to almost everyone at your table this year.

Plant-based cooking not only ensures that vegetarians and vegans in your family can enjoy your meal, but it also eliminates dairy, making it okay for anyone who is lactose-intolerant. Plus, it eliminates any type of meat which may be avoided due to someone’s religious beliefs.

While drinks are just as important at the dinner table as the food, you can make sure everyone is catered to this year with an easy to make vegan eggnog.

Vegan Eggnog

Ingredients: 

  • 24 ounces silken tofu (crumbled) 
  • 2 cups of soy milk
  • 2/3 cup turbinado sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 cup water (cold) 
  • 1 cup rum
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 20 ice cubes 
  • Nutmeg for garnishing

Instructions: 

  • Place the tofu, soy milk, sugar, and salt in a blender and blend until the mixture is smooth.
  • Pour the mixture into a bowl and whisk in the water, rum, and vanilla extract.
  • You will want to keep the mixture refrigerated until it is ready to be served.
  • When you are ready to serve the eggnog, blend the mix with the ice cubes until frothed 
  • Enjoy! 

A hearty vegan Shepherd’s pie is an excellent way to ensure all your guests are able to enjoy a warm and filling entree this holiday season.

Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients: 

  • 4 Potatoes 
  • 2 tbsp vegan margarine 
  • ¼ cup unsweetened soy milk 
  • Salt and pepper (to taste) 
  • One onion 
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil 
  • 1 ½ cups vegan ground beef substitute 
  • 1 ¼ cups vegan gravy 
  • ½ cup green peas 
  • ½ cup of corn 
  • ½ tsp garlic powder 
  • Dash of cayenne pepper 

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 F 
  • Dice potatoes and chop onions
  • Boil or microwave potatoes until soft 
  • Drain potatoes and mash with vegan margarine and soy milk 
  • Add salt and pepper to add taste 
  • Saute the chopped onions in the vegetable oil 
  • Combine the onions, beef substitute, vegan gravy, peas, corn, garlic powder, and a dash of cayenne pepper in a large mixing bowl and pour into a pie pan 
  • Spread the mashed potatoes over your vegetable mixture 
  • Bake for 30 to 40 minutes 
  • Enjoy! 

The holidays are full of wonderful sweets, so give vegan gingerbread cookies a try this holiday season to ensure everyone satiates their sweet tooth.

Vegan Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup of vegan margarine 
  • 1 cup of sugar 
  • Egg Replacer for one egg 
  • 1 cup molasses 
  • Two TBSP apple cider vinegar 
  • 5 cups flour 
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 TBSP ginger 
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp cloves 
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Instructions:

  • Beat the margarine and sugar together in a large bowl 
  • Add the egg replace, molasses, and apple cider vinegar to the mixture 
  • In a separate bowl, combine your dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. 
  • Pour the dry ingredients into the large bowl of wet ingredients and combine well 
  • Let the dough refrigerate for at least two hours to become firm 
  • Preheat the oven to 375 F 
  • Either roll out your dough and cut it into holiday shapes with cookie cutters or form it into ½ inch balls 
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper 
  • Place your cookies on the sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes until done 
  • Enjoy! 

The holidays bring a lot of different people from separate walks of life together. Plant-based options make sure that you are prepared to cater to anyone this holiday season. Feel free to leave a comment below with your favorite go-to holiday dish and make sure to subscribe!

Tips for Conquering Black Friday

Black Friday is the Friday right after Thanksgiving. It is when many stores have huge sales in preparation for the quickly approaching holiday, Christmas. You can find some of the best deals and bargains this day. Typically, stores and malls may open even at midnight in congested areas. This mayhem can lead to some of the most chaotic and aggressive shoppers. While it is all fun and games, finding great deals can be a game-changer for the holiday season! If you plan on making it out with some good finds, you need to have a game plan. Here are the best ways to conquer the mall of Black Friday:

Search the Sales

Before the night begins, you should know what and where you are searching. Do you want to buy a television, shoes, toolbox, or purses? All these can be found in entirely different areas of the mall. First, look online at the sale prices to be expected this Black Friday. Decide where the best deals are and where you need to shop.

Map out Your Plan of Attack

Prioritize and plan your shopping that night. Big purchases like phones, computers, and televisions will go quickly. Do not postpone these purchases for later in the day. These should be your midnight purchases. Other items like clothing may be more feasible to buy later throughout the day. Find the mall or malls you plan on shopping. Have all the stores you need to stop at planned out before you begin your night. It is essential to stick to your plan to make sure you get everything you set out to buy. There will be many sales that may tempt you. Make a note of them and come back later in the day.

Create Your Army

Perhaps you are going with several friends or family members. Maybe one store is selling a toolbox you want while another store is selling pots and pans you need. It may be wise to break up the group to cover more ground. If all of you wait in one line all night, you may miss other opportunities. Black Friday sales can end by running out of the product. Make sure you invest your time wisely.

Black Friday is a great way to get a gift for the holiday. Just remember to plan and decide what sales you are interested in getting, where they will be, and who you are going with for the day. Make a rendezvous point to meet later in the day, as well. You may want to knock out your big purchases at midnight and come back later in the day for smaller purchases when the midnight rush calms.

The Best Sugar Cookies and the Best of Neighbors

MP900216155Many years ago, when the baby boomers who are now starting to collect social security were toddlers, there was a community of young families in Ohio. The homes were well-built, just like Fulton Homes are built today, and a neighborhood grew where there had been nothing but wheat and corn fields just a few years before.

One neighbor, Ruth Chrisman, was a favorite of everyone. You could count on her to watch your kids while you ran to the store, and sickness and grief was solaced by her support and one of her tasty casseroles. She was also a pleasure just to talk to, and her two boys were always available to mow lawns or run errands.

One year, she baked the tastiest sugar cookies anyone on her street had ever tasted. And because generosity was part of her nature, she shared the recipe with everyone who asked, and for the next year, and the next, and the next, those sugar cookies were a staple in the neighborhood every holiday.

So now, decades later, Ruth’s sugar cookie recipe is here for your benefit too. But even more, it’s here to acknowledge that the everyday kindness and pleasure that a neighbor can give should live long after the neighbor is gone and the original community of families has grown up and moved away.

The homes, and the neighborhood, are still there 50 years later because, like Fulton Homes, these people built houses and communities designed to last. And here at Fulton Homes as we head toward 2015, we hope you too are fortunate enough to be part of a warm and friendly community and have a neighbor in your life as wonderful as Ruth.

Ruth Chrisman’s Special Sugar Cookies

 Ingredients:

1 cup butter (softened)

2 cups sugar (granulated)

2 eggs, beaten

5 cups flour (unbleached white)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp soda

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 cup sour cream (light (low-fat) sour cream works best)

Mix the flour, salt and soda together and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the 2 eggs and vanilla and blend. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the sour cream in two or three sections. Put plastic over the bowl and chill in the refrigerator a few hours to overnight.

Taking small segments of the dough and leaving the rest in the refrigerator, roll the dough to ¼ inch thick on a floured board, thinner if you want crisper cookies. Be generous with the flour so that the cookies don’t stick to the board. Cut with the cookie cutters of your choice and lay on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes, until cookies are just a bit brown around the edges. Cool for 5 minutes then move to cooling rack. Ice and decorate to your preference.

 Butter-cream Icing

Blend in a bowl: 3 cups sifted powdered sugar, 1/3 cup softened or melted butter, ½ teaspoon vanilla and about 3 tablespoons of milk, using more or less to get the consistency you want. Color in smaller batches with food coloring if desired. This is enough frosting to handle all the cookies if they are rolled to ¼ inch thick.

Unwanted Gifts

15334772_SDespite people’s best attempts to buy gifts you’ll love, almost every year someone will hand you a present that isn’t to your taste.

Whether the gift is something you already have or something you would never buy in a million years, you have a decision to make. What can you do to escape the kindness of others without filling your home with things you don’t want or need? Here are a few options.

Return it. Most stores will provide gift receipts if you ask. You may want to mention this casually to those family members and friends who purchase doubtful things on a regular basis. You can talk about how you always get gift receipts for anything you buy in case something doesn’t fit or doesn’t work. Even without receipts, most stores will accept returns for a week or so after the holidays. Practice the words, “Oh, what a lovely gift. Wherever did you find it?”

Re-gift it. The big cotton cardigan in the exact shade of green to make you look jaundiced may be perfect for your red-headed aunt. If it doesn’t suit you, that doesn’t mean that it won’t work well for someone you know. Think about it.

Schedule an exchange party. Get a handful of like-minded friends who have well-meaning givers in their lives and engage in a trade. You may already have a waffle iron or popcorn popper, but someone else could use it, while that curling iron is just the thing for you.

Just keep it. If you have the closet space, sometimes the kindest thing is to keep it so it can be on display for visits. If you have a guest room, that’s the perfect place for those items that aren’t really to your taste. After all, how often do you walk in that room?

Agree to stop exchanging gifts. There are times when the best gift is no gift at all. You could buy each other lunch or dinner or treat each other to a movie. And you never know, maybe your friend or family member cringes every time he or she opens one of your gifts too!

Post-Holiday Organizing

You can make next year’s holiday season easier if you think through the process of clearing up after this year. Here are a few organizing ideas for this week.

Put next year’s holiday card list together: Go through all of those envelopes to make sure no one has changed their address in the past year, and see who you may need to add or subtract from your mailing list. You may also want to pick up some cards on sale so you’re ahead next year. If you’re not up for the post-holiday sales, check online for discounts on holiday products.

Let go of unused holiday items: Are you finding that some things in those holiday boxes never get out? If you are not using some of your holiday finery – whether it is home decorations or that snowman sweater that makes you feel stupid every time you wear it – get rid of it rather than packing it up for another year.

Consider a light upgrade: LED lights are safer, very pretty, and use much less energy. On top of that you can string many of them together without creating a fire hazard. It may be time to move on to this newer light technology. The cost of these lights keeps dropping, which means that there’s a good chance that the warehouse and discount stores will have even more reasonably-priced options next year. You may even be able to pick up some that change color – quite a sparky option for your front yard!

Pack and label holiday items: Do you have to sort through the ornaments to get to your holiday plates? Is it a struggle to untangle your favorite bead garlands every year? It may be time for a holiday intervention. Consider containers, packaging and effective arranging to bring you holiday cheer next year when you unpack everything again.

Make next year’s holiday a little bit easier by planning ahead this year, creating a merrier season for you in 2013.

Make Holiday Place Settings Special Simply

Simple things can take a holiday table out of the ordinary and make it something special. You don’t need to spend a lot of time or money to get a beautiful looking table in your home. Let’s see a few possibilities.

This photo shows a festive table that required very little effort. By tying the silverware with some holiday ribbon, you have an instant splash of color and charm. Throwing a few confetti stars on the plate makes the entire place setting inviting. The table decorations are also simple – greens and ornaments. By coordinating colors and style the hosts made this table ready for holiday guests.

Here’s another simple but charming place setting. The simple napkin ring is highlighted with a couple of candy canes tucked inside with the napkin, and holiday cookies add to the final look. For an inexpensive holiday tablecloth, check out the seasonal fabrics at your local sewing store. Then just buy enough to cover your table properly and hem the two edges. Let the natural selvage serve as a hem for the long sides. The snowflake tablecloth in this photo coordinates well with the cookies and small silver balls scattered on the table.

This plain white tablecloth gets its holiday cheer from poinsettia table runners down the center and crossing to make the equivalent of placemats for each place setting. Inviting gift-wrapped favors, a cluster of cinnamon sticks, and a small pair of Santa’s boots complete the look. No need for special holiday china if your table linens show the season. More wrapped gifts and gold candles complete this holiday tablescape.

You don’t have to mimic Martha Stewart to set a beautiful table this year. Just use your imagination and a few extra elements, and your table will look as inviting as the food you will be placing on it. And have a happy holiday from all of us at Fulton Homes.