25th Annual Troy Victorian Stroll – The stroll kicks off with its popular window-decorating contest, open to businesses and residences in downtown Troy. Judging for the contest will be held on November 27 & 28 and prizes will be awarded in various categories. More than 100 free attractions, including the region's top performers musicians, dancers, magicians and storytellers. There will be rides, refreshments, a craft show and much more in the downtown Victorian setting. Shops, boutiques and galleries will be open for holiday shopping, as well as eateries and a food court located next to City Hall. 11am-5pm. Free. Downtown Troy. For more info: 274.7020; www.troyvictorianstroll.com.
Saratoga/Glens Falls/North Country
Victorian Streetwalk – Open houses in stores, music and free entertainment. Broadway will be closed to traffic 5pm-10pm. 6pm-10pm. Free. Downtown Saratoga. For more info: 587.8635; email@example.com.
Mohawk & Leatherstocking Region
November 30-December 1
St. John’s Day/Johnstown Colonial Stroll – Annual holiday celebration commemorating Sir William Johnson’s Masonic connections, honored with period holiday greenery, seasonal music, and holiday foods. Enjoy Johnstown’s Colonial Stroll and holiday events throughout the valley at Fort Johnson, Fort Plain Museum, Nellis Tavern and others. 6pm. Adults $4; seniors or group 3; children under 12 free. For more info: 762.8712.
November 30-December 1
Christmastime in Schoharie – Tree lighting on Friday and most other events will be on Saturday. Downtown store decorations, tree lighting, caroling, children’s Christmas crafts, horse–drawn carriage rides, tree decorating contest, colonial Christmas tea, bon fire, pictures with Santa, chicken BBQ, church breakfasts and more. For more info: www.christmastimeinschoharie.com.
A Holiday Weekend in Bolton Landing ñ Holiday shoppers will be able to shop, dine & stroll the Town of Bolton Landing, during this special weekend. There will be restaurant specials, shops will be serving holiday refreshments, hayrides, entertainment and more. For more info: www.boltonchamber.com.
Downtown Gloversville Victorian Stroll – Annual Christmas tree lighting and caroling festival. Santa & Mrs.Claus. Entertainers, horse drawn carriage rides, music performances and strollers in and out of downtown businesses. 6pm. Free. Gloversville Business Improvement District, Gloversville. For more info: 773.7010.
Miracle on Main Street in Middleburgh – Stroll down Main Street, enjoy caroling and musicians. Extended shop hours, holiday treats and more! 6pm-8pm. Main Street, Middleburgh. For more info: www.middleburghvillage.org.
Cooperstown Christmas Village Stroll – Main Street Cooperstown will be aglow with hundreds of luminaries accenting the beautifully decorated lampposts, shops and public buildings. Santa will be in his cozy Victorian Cottage while outside carolers gather around wood fires and Victorian Strollers tour the village. Horse-drawn carriage rides. Shops will be open offering specials and refreshments. 4pm-7pm. For more info: 607.547.9983; www.cooperstownchamber.org.
November 30; December 1-2
18th Annual Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas – Holiday readings, house tours, caroling and a holiday concert. Capping off the weekend is a recreation on Sunday of the scene depicted in Rockwell’s Main Street at Christmas, complete with vintage automobiles parked in the spots occupied in the painting. The day’s activities include horse drawn rides, a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, Roger the Jester, lunch at the Christmas Food Booth and much more. Fri. events begin at 7:30pm; Sat. events begin at 11am; Sun. events begin at 12pm. For more info: 413.298.5200; www.williamstownchamber.com.
Williamstown Holiday Walk Weekend – Santa’s workshop, trolley rides, horse-and-carriage rides, “reindog” parade, holiday concerts, craft show, shopping, old-fashioned penny social, performers, carolers, children’s entertainment, Habitat for Humanity Christmas Tree Showcase. For more info: 800.214.3799; www.williamstownchamber.com.
Winter Walk on Warren Street – The mile-long outdoor party transforms the City of Hudson’s commercial district into an eclectic mix of the traditional and the contemporary to kick-start the holiday season. Modern-day clowns dance next to Victorian carolers. A stilt-walking Toy Solider juggles his way down the street next to Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. Horse-drawn carriages clip-clop past African drummers, while a bagpiper and other street musicians add to the mix. 5pm-8pm. Free. For more info: 822.1438; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winter Walk in Valatie – Enjoy storytelling, musicians, a performance by the Ghent Band starting at 6:15pm, face painters, carolers, refreshments and a silent auction, hayrides down Main Street and Santa Claus arrives at 6:30pm. 6pm-9pm. For more info: 758.9806; www.valatievillage.com.
Senior Luncheon / North Country Festival of Trees – Festival preview & gourmet luncheon for senior citizens. 11:30am. $12; includes luncheon. Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Water Park, Queensbury. For more info: 798.0170.
Breakfast with Santa / North Country Festival of Trees – Theme-oriented Christmas tree displays, entertainment, Crafts, holiday boutique. Tour the Children’s Wonderland and have a photo with Santa. Breakfast is included in entry fee. $12. 8am. Sugar Plum Ball, Sat. 7pm-9pm. Six Flags Great Escape Lodge, Queensbury. For more info: 798.0170.
November 25-December 2
Festival of Trees – Trees, wreaths, centerpieces and other holiday items available for viewing and sale. Victorian Streetwalk on November 29th. Breakfast with Santa on December 1st tickets; three seatings at 8am, 9:30pm and 11am. $8; call for reservations. Also on December 1st, join Santa & Mrs. Claus, Frosty, Rudolph, and other costumed characters in a variety of holiday crafts and goodies; photos with Santa; 8am-11am. Adults $6; seniors & children over 10 $3. Benefits Catholic Charities. Saratoga Springs City Center. For more info: 587.5000.
November 30-December 8
Festival of Trees 2007 – Over 50 locally-designed and decorated Christmas trees. National Soccer Hall of Fame, Oneonta. For more info: 607.432.5531; www.soccerhall.org.
Festival of Trees – Dec. 1 children’s activities from 10am-1pm; $3/person. Dec. 2 brunch from 10am-1pm; $15/person. Dec. 5 Ladies’ Luncheon from 11am-2pm; $30/person. Dec. 6 wine tasting from 6-9pm; $10/person. General admission Sat. & Sun. 1-6pm; Mon.-Fri. 11am-2pm. Adults $5; seniors $4; students $3. GFWC Century Club, Amsterdam. For more info: 842.2031.
December 1-December 9
Christmas at the Old Stone Fort/Festival of Trees – Exhibition of Christmas trees decorated by local and community groups. Holiday programs, Museum Store open daily. 10am-5pm. Adults $5; seniors $4.50; children 5-17 $1.50. Old Stone Fort Museum, Schoharie Co. Historical Society, Schoharie. For more info: 295.7192; www.TheOldStoneFort.org.
Festival of Trees – Organizations from around Schenectady County will decorate a variety of trees for display at the Schenectady County Historical Society and YWCA of Schenectady. Ten trees will be up for a silent auction. Proceeds will benefit the Historical Society and YWCA. 10am-4pm. $6 per adult; children 6-12 $3; children under 6 free. YWCA of Schenectady and the Schenectady County Historical Society, Schenectady. For more info: 374.0263; email@example.com.
Festival of Trees: Ballston Spa – Donated decorated trees, wreaths and other holiday decorative items will be auctioned off in silent auctions with proceeds to go to community events and village beautification. Ballston Area Community Center, Ballston Spa. Fri. 10am-2pm & 6pm-9pm; Sat. 4pm-9pm. Free. For more info: 885.3650; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susquehanna SPCA Festival of Trees – Come see a variety of decorated trees; raffle and more. 10am-4pm. Louis C. Jones Center, The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown. For more info: 607.547.8111.
Pruyn House Open House Weekend & Greens Show – Holiday decorations by the Blue Creek Garden Club with a “Colonial Christmas” theme. Enjoy the festivities with music by the Recorders, punch and cookies, holiday decorations. Sat. 10am-4pm; Sun. 12:30-4pm. Free. Pruyn House, Colonie. For more info: 783.1437; www.colonie.org/pruyn.
Holiday House Tour – The sights, sounds and magical spirit of the holiday season fill Albany’s historic neighborhoods for the Historic Albany Foundation’s Annual Holiday House Tour. A dozen beautiful private homes decorated for the holidays welcome visitors, along with related events at local attractions and businesses. Tour the uniquely-decorated private homes in the Center Square, Hudson/Park, Washington Park and Pine Hills neighborhoods in Albany. 12pm-5pm. For more info: 465.0876; www.historic-albany.org.
Saratoga/Glens Falls/North Country
Candlelight House Tour – Tour several North Broadway homes festively decorated for the holidays. Gala reception at Canfield Casino in Congress Park, live entertainment, hors d’oeuvres, silent auction and cash bar. Tour 5:30pm-9pm; gala reception 6:30pm-10pm. $60 members; $65 non-members. Saratoga Springs. For more info: 587.5030; email@example.com.
Holiday Trolley Tour – Park your car and hop on a trolley to visit the Chapman Historical Museum in Glens Falls, Parks-Bentley Place in South Glens Falls and the Old Fort House Museum in Fort Edward – all in one afternoon. Features costumed guides, refreshments, holiday shopping and celebrations. 11am-4pm. Free. For more info: 793.2826; www.chapmanmuseum.org.
Christmas in Warrensburg – Celebration featuring Candlelight House Tour, caroling, holiday storytelling, tree lighting ceremony, craft fair & demonstrations, church bazaars, luncheons, concerts. Free. Main Street, Downtown Warrensburg. For more info: 466.5497; www.warrensburgchamber.com.
Hometown Holiday Tour Around Glens Falls – Visit elegant homes on historic North Road, Horicon & Coolidge Ave. Then travel downtown to see restored apartments, condos, businesses and offices. To celebrate the season, spaces will be decorated with musicians providing holiday music. Ticket includes a holiday reception and bake sale at the Chapman Historical Museum, 10am-5pm. $25. Chapman Historical Museum, Glens Falls. For more info: 793.2826; www.chapmanmuseum.org.
Mohawk & Leatherstocking Region
Mayfield Historical Society Christmas Open House – Enjoy tours of the historic Rice Homestead and entertainment. Enjoy mulled cider and old-fashioned cookies and buy a homemade pie! 11am-4pm. Free, but donations are welcome. Rice Homestead, Mayfield. For more info: www.mayfieldny.org.
Christmas at Lorenzo – Historic mansion features thematic decorations, special displays, live music on Saturdays and a gingerbread gallery. Also check out Family Christmas Day on the 15th from 1pm-4pm and Christmas by Candlelight on the 21st from 7-9pm. Wed.-Sat. 1pm-4pm. Lorenzo Historic Site, Cazenovia. For more info: 315.655.3200; www.lorzenony.org.
December 1-2; 8-9; 15-16; 22-23
“A Silver Christmas” at Wilderstein – Self-guided tours of a Queen Anne Victorian mansion above the Hudson River. Seasonal decorations by well-known Hudson Valley and New York City florists, artists and designers. Enjoy an assortment of homemade cakes, cookies and sandwiches. Taking a winter walk across Wilderstein’s breathtaking landscape is a great way to get into the spirit. An annual tradition for over 20 years. 1-4pm. Wilderstein Historic Site, Rhinebeck. For more info: 845.876.4818; www.wilderstein.org.
Holiday House Tours at Olana – Come visit the Persian-style home and estate of Hudson River School artist Frederic Church for a Christmastime reception. Holiday house tours on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in December. 10am-3pm. Olana Historic Site, Hudson. For more info: 828.0135; www.olana.org.
December 1-2; 6-9; 12-16; 19-24; 26-31
A Gilded Age Christmas – This year’s theme is based on the 1907 wedding of the Mill’s daughter Gladys. Elaborate turn-of-the-century holiday decorations and flower arrangements. Christmas trees festooned with Edwardian-style ornaments and spectacular Dining Room decorations based on historic themes. Tours are given every half hour. 12pm-5pm; the last tour of the day begins at 4:30pm. $5; children under 12 free. Mills Mansion, Staatsburg Historical Site, Staatsburg. For more info: 845.889.8851; www.staatsburg.org.
December 1-2; 8-9; 15-16; 22-23; 29-30
Fairy Tale Evenings at the Lyndhurst – Visit the mansion at night and enjoy Lyndhurst in its full winter fairy tale beauty. Celebrate the season with live music and hot mulled cider amid the lavishly decorated rooms. Also check out holiday dinners starting at 6pm in the carriage house on the 1st, 8th and 15th (reservations required). Sat. 4pm-7pm; Sun. 3pm-6pm. Adults and seniors $15; Children ages 6-12 $6; children under 6 free. Reservations required. Lyndhurst, Tarrytown. For more info: 914.631.4481 x0; www.lyndhurst.org.
Winter Celebration at Lindenwald – Come enjoy Van Buren’s Lindenwald decorated by the Kinderhook Garden Club. Candlelight Night the same evening in the village of Kinderhook. Reservations required. 4:30pm-8:30pm. Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, Kinderhook. For more info: 758.9689; www.nps.gov/mava.
Roosevelt Christmas Special Open House – Visitors can experience a typical Roosevelt family Christmas as it was celebrated in the 1950s. Stone Cottage at Val-Kill is open for viewing and refreshments. 6pm-9pm. Free. Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site, Hyde Park. For more info: 800.337.8474; www.historichydepark.com.
Christmas at Clermont Open House: A French Empire Christmas – Tour the mansion, which will be decorated for the Christmas season. 11am-4pm. Free. Clermont Historical Site, Germantown. For more info: 537.4240; www.friendsofclermont.org.
December 8-9; 15-16
Evening Candlelight Tours at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside – Candlelight tours bring an 1850s Christmas to life. You’ll be escorted down a lantern-lit path to the cottage decorated with holly, evergreens and real candles. Excerpts from Irving’s Christmas tales and family letters are the theme of the evening. Join in song while a costumed guide accompanies you on the 1830s piano. The tour concludes in the kitchen yard, where hot cider is served beside a roaring fire. Tours start at 4pm; the last tour begins at 8pm. Reservations required. Sunnyside, Tarrytown. For more info: 914.631.8200 x618.
Daytime Holiday Tours at Boscobel Restoration – The House will be decorated with fresh greens, fruit and flowers and docents will discuss holiday traditions and entertaining during the Federal period. Cider and fruitcake will be served at the end of the tour. 10am-3:15pm (except Tuesdays and Christmas Day). Adults $12; seniors $10; children (ages 6-14) $7. Boscobel House, Garrison. For more info: 845.265.3638 x115; www.boscobel.org.
Candlelight Tours of Clermont – Bonfire & carols. 3pm-6pm. Adults $5; seniors $4; children under 14 free. Clermont Historical Site, Germantown. For more info: 537.4240; www.friendsofclermont.org.
December 21-22; 28-29
Evening Candlelight Tours at Van Cortlandt Manor – Experience a late 18th-century celebration of “Twelfth Night.” The candlelit festivities begin with a visit to the home of one of the wealthiest families of the post-Revolutionary era. Decorations made of holiday greens and fruit adorn windowsills and mantles, live music is performed in the parlor, and the tables set with Van Cortlandt family china are laden with intriguing 18th-century desserts. A stroll through the orchard, lit by candle-lanterns, takes visitors to the tenant house to meet the Lord of Misrule. A celebration is under way at the ferry house, where guests dance to the fiddle and drink a toast to the season. Tours start at 4pm; the last tour begins at 8pm. Reservations required. Van Cortlandt Manor, Croton-on-Hudson. For more info: 914.631.8200 x618.
A Christmas Evening with the Ellisons – Featuring live music, costumed staff and holiday decor in the English American tradition of over 200 years ago. Knox’s Headquarters State Historic Site, Vails Gate. For more info: 845.561.1765; nysparks.ny.us.
November 30-December 1; December 7-9
Historic Inns of Manchester Holiday Open House – Events include a Friday night opening reception at the American Fly Fishing Museum, a sleigh ride, free passes to the Southern Vermont Arts Center and Hildene, free passes to the annual Historic Inns of Manchester Holiday Open House, with all inns decorated for the holidays and serving a specialty of each inn and dinner and dancing at Bistro Henry. Participating properties are The 1811 House, The Inn at Manchester, The Inn at Ormsby Hill, The Manchester Highlands Inn, and the Wilburton Inn, all located throughout Manchester. For more info: 800.670.2841; 802.362.1163.
December 1-2, 9, 31
Park-McCullough Historical Site – Santa arrives on the 1st from 1pm-3pm. Victorian Tea on 2nd & 9th at 2pm. Then come celebrate New Year’s Eve from 8pm-midnight. Park-McCullough House, North Bennington. For more info: 802.442.5441; www.parkmccullough.org.
Hildene Holiday Evenings – Self-guided tours through the mansion decorated for the holidays. Cider, carolers and a bonfire on the front lawn. 4pm-6:30pm. Adults $12; children under 14 $4; members free. Hildene, Manchester. For more info: 802.362.1788; www.hildene.org.
All events December 31-January 1
First Night Oneonta – A family-friendly, non-alcoholic celebration with a host of entertainment, activities and fun for folks of all ages. Firework finale at midnight ringing in the New Year. Main Street, Oneonta. For more info: 607.432.1179; www.firstnightoneonta.com.
First Night Saratoga – Alcohol-free celebration of the arts and the community for the New Year. Over 35 sites throughout Saratoga Springs. Children’s venue at 4:30pm. Fireworks at midnight. 4:30pm-12am. Downtown Saratoga. For more info: 583.9622; firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Year’s Eve Celebration – Includes dinner, open bar, champagne toast, and snacks during the evening. 7pm-1am. $165/couple. Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Schoharie. For more info: 295.6088.
New Year’s Eve Dinner & Party Cruise – Huge buffet, hot & cold hors d’ oeurves, pasta stations, hot entrees, carving station, dessert stations, mock New Year celebration with party favors and fireworks at midnight! Music and dancing with the Danny Lombardo Ensemble. Reservations. Steel Pier, Beach Road, Lake George. Reservations required. For more info: 668.5777 x205; www.lakegeorgesteamboat.com.
New Year’s Eve Fireworks – Fireworks will illuminate the base area at dusk (approximately 5:15pm); kicked off by a torchlight parade. Free. Gore Mountain, North Creek. For more info: 251.2411; www.goremountain.com.
A guy’s guide to gift giving
(a.k.a the guide to delighting the wonderful women in your life!)
Right about now, most men are faced with the classic shopping quandary: What gift will delight the special woman in my life? Closets and drawers, shelves and storage bins are already filled to overflowing. Stuff she’s got, but time, not. Time to kick back and take it easy for a few days or even a few hours; time for pampering. Between home and work, email and cell phones, women struggle with an endless list of household and child-rearing chores. It’s no surprise that they feel there’s never enough “me” time. This year the answer is simple for every guy seeking the ideal gift – a ticket to pamper-land in the form of a gift card for a relaxing bed-and-breakfast getaway will be her favorite gift this holiday season.
The hottest new trend in retailing, gift cards are a guy’s dream gift and a lady’s delight. Archstone Consulting’s 2007 Holiday Gift Card Survey examined the shopping habits of more than 1,000 web users, finding that gift card purchases are expected to increase 25 percent over 2006. During the 2007 holiday season, $35 billion in gift card sales are predicted, with the average American family spending $184 on gift cards. According to the survey, men spend on average 32 percent more than women on gift cards and 90 percent of the highest per gift card expenditures ($200-pkus per card) are purchased by men. Starting in 2004, gift cards replaced apparel as the gift purchase of choice, with approximately two-thirds of consumers purchasing at least one of them. So men, out with the sexy nightie and in with the plastic. Your lady wants a say in her gift this year and chances are, she’ll choose to be pampered.
Guys, gift cards are the easiest way to give luxurious indulgence with the least amount of energy. For the women on your list – including wives/girlfriends, mothers, sisters, and daughters – who have everything but time to relax, the gift of a getaway is a pampering gift card from your favorite getaway location.
For the gift of a relaxing B&B escape, one idea is The Getaway Gift Card from BedandBreakfast.com, welcomed at nearly 4,000 B&Bs in the United States and Canada and conveniently sold in $50 and $100 denominations in thousands of Costco, Wal-Mart, CVS, and Rite Aid stores. Stuck on ideas for the perfect present? Wrap your gift of getaway in a new travel cosmetic case, enclosed handsome carry-on suitcase, and you have a gift that’s sure to thrill. Another idea – pick up a wicker basket, and fill it with a bottle of wine or sparkling cider, two champagne flutes, a small box of fine chocolates, and a gift card, setting a romantic mood before you even leave home.
If you’d rather do your shopping online, just go to www.BedandBreakfast.com where you can buy and instantly print a customized B&B gift card, complete with your personalized message and choice of design. You can even upload a photo of you and your lucky lady right onto your BedandBreakfast.com gift card.
Best of all, BedandBreakfast.com gift cards have no fees, expiration or blackout dates, and shipping is always free. Order from your own computer and in less than five minutes you have a gift that’s sure to bring a smile and a kiss or maybe even two. For a fancier touch, call 800-GO-B-AND-B, and gift cards can be sent from BedandBreakfast.com in foil-lined envelopes with a free 64-page directory, a $5.95 value. And guess what? She won’t be the only lucky one. She’ll surely want to take you along, so you get to enjoy your gift together!
A “pamper-me” gift card will be the hottest gift this holiday season. While you’re at it, couldn’t you use some pampering too? Buy the gift of getaway for her and get a little pampering for you too.
Courtesy of ARA Content
By Genn Shaughnessy
Trendy times are among us in many shapes and forms. Even our flash drives are available in fun mini Star Wars® characters and our computer monitors are less than one-inch thick. Our fancy IPods® can be parked in their space age Altec Lansing® docking speaker stations and sit atop our glass and metal futuristic desks to mask our insatiable technology-tweaked minimalist brains.
I am all about these trends. First off, let’s talk about my insatiable phone appetite. My father will tell you that since I was old enough to speak, I have had a phone in my hand. Imagine how his eyes rolled once cell phones became easily accessible in my 20s. We’ve come a long way since the remote control sized handheld devices, but I still need more – they never seem to be the right size, color, keyboard or business functional.
After consistently being disappointed by my cell phone and other electronics purchases, I decided to take on a much bigger task than merely deciding which had the best ring tones, longest battery life and easiest keyboard to text on. I had to know what the total electro-package is and it had to be pretty enough to show off to my colleagues, of course.
Sprint won hands down in every category of cell phone glory. Not only was I utterly impressed with their staff’s knowledge, I was also utterly impressed with their customer service. Even better news, I won’t need to refinance my mortgage in order to support my mad-texting habits and call-happy moments.
Blackberry® Basics 101
Who’s the big winner in the all-in-one category? Blackberry. It’s definitely a toss-up between the 8703e and the 8830. I can’t tell which I like better because they are both so fantastic. Both are Sprint Music store, email and web capable, Bluetooth and GPS-enabled and capable of broadband speeds.
What’s that mean? These ingenious devices are able to check your email and browse the web while you listen to recently-downloaded music on your wireless MotoRokr S9 headset at speeds fast enough to make you forget it is a “simple” little phone.
A few differences might make your choice easier. The 8830 is thinner and sleeker looking, but has only 3.6 hours of talk time at $299 with a new contract price, less $100 signing up online. The 8830e is a tad bulkier, tends to look more corporate professional and has 4.5 hours of talk time at $249 with a new contract price, also less $100 if signing up online.
Blackberry 8703e and the 8830
www.sprint.com or Sprint various local locations
Motorolla MOTOROKR S9 $129
www.Sprint.com or various Sprint and Staples locations
Lost in Television
If you need TV-and video-watching capabilities, MotoRazr2 V9m is definitely the one for you. This charcoal, metal flip phone is so smooth you’ll definitely stiff up some conversation. Rad for red? Try the Samsung Upstage. Instead of a flip phone, try a flip-over phone. Phone on the front, mp3 player on the back, very slim and chic. Both include access to the Sprint Music StoreSM, are Sprint TVSM enabled, have a speakerphone, built-in camera, are web and email capable, Bluetooth, external display and GPS enabled.
MotoRazr2 V9m and the Samsung Upstage
www.Sprint.com or various Sprint locations
Other electronic products
Altec Lansing®inMotion iM600 portable ipod speaker system $129.99
www.alteclansing.com or Circuit City in Crossgates Commons
Plantronics Explorer 330 in black or pink!
Plantronics mix 300 series in white starting at $79.99
www.plantronics.com or various cellular service stores
Renowned Make-Up Artist Genn Shaughnessy is a broadcast personality, make-up artist & beauty expert. She has a regular beauty segment on FOX23 News Daybreak and has worked with national and international photographers & talent, including Carrie Underwood, Leslie Segrete, Constantine Maroulis, The US Women’s Hockey Team and NYS Governor Elliot Spitzer. She can be reached by email at: Genny@DarkShadowsMedia.com or visit www.DarkShadowsMedia.com.
What’s your holiday decorating style?
‘Tis the season for making merry. Whether you are celebrating a traditional family holiday at home or entertaining some friends for a festive cocktail party, use decorations to transform your home into a winter wonderland this holiday season.
Here are some quick and simple holiday decorating tips from the experts at ProFlowers:
Classic country Christmas
Your family tends to make all of your holiday decorations from scratch, and everyone pitches in while stringing the popcorn to go around your oversized Christmas tree. This year, take your homemade decorating a step further and transform your home into a festive country cottage. Hang pinecone garland, bought or homemade, along your staircase to bring the outdoors inside. For an added country touch, add plaid red and white ribbons to your garland. Hanging greenery on your mantel is always a classic touch, and this year you can take it a step further by sprinkling fake snow on the greenery to give your home a cozy feeling.
The thought of hanging red and green patterned stockings from your fireplace makes you quiver. You prefer to celebrate the holidays in a minimalist way. You would love to bring the merriment of the holidays indoors without overdoing it, so what can you do? Instead of hanging them on your wall, try placing small evergreen wreathes on your dining room table or side table with votive candles in the center. This innovative candelscape will smell great and look festive without screaming HO! HO! HO! You can also try decorating your fireplace mantel with fragrant pines or topiaries in vases that have classic, clean lines.
If the smell of eggnog takes you back to the tinsel and brightly colored glass ornaments of your youth, you might be longing for a retro holiday. Bring back those feelings by breaking out your old boxes of ornaments and even making some of your own with old photos and retro patterned fabric. Keep your table centerpieces simple by running your table with red, orange and yellow candles set among fresh smelling evergreen.
Holiday cocktail party
Celebrating the holidays with some friends and some warm cocktails? Spruce up your dining room or kitchen by hanging evergreen boughs from a chandelier or lighting fixture. Gather up a few sprigs of greenery after trimming your Christmas tree and tie with a red bow to use at your place settings. You can also use these extra bits of evergreen as a substitute for real mistletoe, which is actually poisonous and dangerous for children and pets.
Whether your style is traditional, modern or just plain over-the-top, you will find the perfect holiday collection to suit your needs this holiday season at www.proflowers.com.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Shamelessly simple holiday party tips
Remember the days when a holiday party involved hours in the kitchen hand-making gourmet delights and even more hours cleaning up afterward? For many smart holiday hostesses, those days are long gone – and good riddance to them!
Modern holiday entertaining puts the focus on spending time with your guests and impressing them with your holiday spirit – not with your baking skills or expensive tableware. Savvy holiday hostesses are no longer ashamed to admit they use time-saving tricks like store-bought hors d’oeuvres and disposable tableware.
Here are some tips for shamelessly simple ways to make your holiday entertaining both easy and successful:
• Ditch printed invitations in favor of e-mailed ones. Chances are that the e-mail addresses of everyone you want to invite are already in your e-mail program’s address book. Can you put your hands on snail mail addresses so quickly? Probably not. Design your own e-vite using your e-mail program or join one of the many free Web sites that allow you to create great-looking online invitations, send them and keep track of RSVPs.
• Keep costs and complications down by serving simple spirits like wine and beer over complex cocktails. Unless you make your living as a bartender, chances are you won’t be able to satisfy the cocktail requests of every guest. Choose wines with broad appeal – like a sparkling wine, quality chardonnay or rich merlot – and add in a few domestic and import beer choices.
• Pick an easy food theme, one that emphasizes one course like dessert or appetizers, rather than trying to present an extravagant buffet or full meal. For example, go with a “holiday sweets” theme and serve a variety of cookies, cakes and chocolates – homemade or store bought. Or opt for an “appealing appetizers” theme and invite guests to bring their favorite appetizers.
• Prepare ahead as much as possible. If you feel compelled to cook, do so the week before and freeze as much as you can. Thawing and reheating the day of the party will be much easier than preparing food from scratch.
• Keep it simple with precut veggies for hors d’oeuvres platters or stir-fries. Don’t be embarrassed to serve store-bought dips. Or, if you really are hung up on the idea of fresh and homemade, remember a package of onion soup mixed into sour cream is still one of the all-time great dips.
• The wholesale club is your friend when it comes to appetizers. Most frozen food cases at wholesale clubs are laden with a wide array of frozen appetizers – from Thai spring rolls to Italian mozzarella sticks and American buffalo wings. Many stores increase their stock and variety at holiday time, knowing time-pressed hostesses will be turning to them for help.
• Quit wasting time on cleanup. Every minute you spend in the kitchen washing dishes – during or after the party—is a minute you’ve lost from your holidays. Shamelessly purchase and use disposable plates, cups and tableware to avoid multiple runs to the dishwasher.
Lines like Hefty (www.HeftyBrand.com) now make durable, multi-use holiday-themed products that can significantly cut cleanup time. Disposable plates and tableware will keep your counters free of stacked dishes and your dishwasher free for items like pots and pans. What’s more, you won’t have to worry about getting your plates back when you send guests home with leftovers.
Courtesy of ARA Content
The holiday blues
By Diane E. Lykes
Did Ebenezer Scrooge have it right when he declared “ba humbug” on the spirit of Christmas?
For many, the holidays symbolize a time of joy, deeper connections with family and religious/spiritual celebrations. For others, the holidays are a stressful and lonely time filled with sadness.
How can this time of year be so joyous for some, while others experience a state of despair commonly referred to as the holiday blues?
We can find some answers in Charles Dickens’ classic story, “A Christmas Carol”. We all know the tale – Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the three ghosts of Christmas: the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. These “ghosts” will shed some light on the causes of the holiday blues, while helping us find ways to experience a more fulfilling holiday season.
The Ghost of Christmas Past
In this story, when Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, we learn that he has suffered many disappointments in life. These disappointments have shaped his negative view of the world.
During the holidays people often reflect on their past and think about whether their life is living up to their expectations. The end of the calendar year can spark feelings of regret over unmet New Years resolutions. Another year of life has gone by and for some it means another year of not realizing their dreams.
Others are reminded that someone they love is no longer with them during the holidays after such hardships as death, divorce or separation (just look at our military families). This can lead to a sense of increased isolation and loneliness at a time symbolized by family togetherness.
The contrast between the image of holiday joy and the reality of one’s life can often lead to the holiday blues.
The Ghost of Christmas Present
Ebenezer Scrooge devoted his life to the accumulation of wealth and held anything other than money in contempt. Unfortunately, so much of Christmas has become about money – to buy the perfect gift, to satisfy a child’s biggest wish or to impress others with material wealth.
For this reason, the holidays have become a source of stress for many people. Many go into debt around this time of year and spend far more than they are truly able to.
People often abandon habits such as exercise and healthy eating in place of last minute shopping, wrapping gifts and attending holiday parties. This can lead to feeling run-down and more irritable.
The Ghost of Christmas Present takes our normal routine and sends it packing!
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
Finally, Scrooge is shown a dismal view of his future should he continue to live a life without family, friendship and the joy of the Christmas season.
Unless we are able to make important changes in ourselves, our relationships and our holiday practices, next year will be filled with the same difficulties as holidays past. This year, use the holidays as a path to personal growth.
Chasing the ghosts away
Face your feelings head on
Loneliness, hurt, envy, anger and sadness are normal human feelings. Accepting your feelings does not mean you give in to them, but accept their presence in your life as a teacher. Saying to yourself “what is wrong with me?” will not make you feel better. Sadness does not indicate that something is wrong with you. It’s actually just the opposite. These feelings show that your mind reacts to painful situations, that you feel, that you are alive!
Understand that you are not alone
Many people experience depression or “the blues” around the holidays. These feelings are an indication that something in your life is not working. If you listen to these feelings, they may help you to make needed changes in your life. The future is open to endless possibilities, limited only by your fear.
Practice pleasure and joy
Pleasure and joy are natural enemies of sadness. Even when we feel down, there may be some small thing that truly pleases us – a piece of chocolate, a hot bath, your favorite music or an old movie. Even a small amount of pleasure can raise your spirits and remind you that life can be okay.
Try this exercise: do one thing every single day that you absolutely love. Whether is it as simple as taking a cold winter’s walk with a cup of hot peppermint mocha or getting a full-body massage, this practice of purposefully taking care of yourself will feel wonderful.
There are two ways we can give thanks. The first is to redirect your thoughts from what’s not going well to what is working in your life. When you express gratitude and appreciation for all that is going well in your life, your body fills with natural “feel good” hormones. These hormones have been proven to improve your health and help you live longer too.
Another very important way to give thanks is to do something kind for someone else. The gift you receive in return is feeling wonderful. The real secret of the holidays is about the love and joy we can share with one another. Consider adopting a family, donating toys or visiting a nursing home. Many elderly people are often forgotten during the holidays.
Make your spirits bright
One of the most difficult things about feeling sad or lonely during the holidays is thinking the rest of the world is having a fabulous time with their friends and family. This is not based in reality. Holidays can bring about pleasant, as well as painful feelings for many people.
Focus on what you can do to make your spirits bright instead of on what other families are doing and try your best to temper your expectations. When we focus on what’s “supposed” to happen, we get lost in the seasonal hype that only serves to disappoint you.
Say “ba humbug” to the holiday blues
The reasons for the holiday blues are unique to each person. What is not unique is how we deal with these feelings. As difficult as it may be to hear, no one else is responsible for making your days merry and bright. It may take a good deal of emotional strength and effort, but saying “ba humbug” to the holiday blues this year will be the single biggest gift you can give to yourself.
Diane Lykes is a Principal of Synergy Counseling Associates in Albany where she specializes in individual and couples counseling, educational training and clinical consultation. Synergy is a unique counseling practice providing compassionate, solution-oriented treatment for adults, children, adolescents and families. She can be reached at 466-3100 or at email@example.com
Savvy online shopping secrets to help you save during the holidays
More people than ever before will buy gifts online this holiday season, retail experts predict. In fact, online shopping rose 20 percent last year to a total of $211.4 billion, according to a Shop.org study, and the trend shows no signs of abating. So how do you make the most of your online shopping dollars?
“Online shopping is a popular and convenient way to lessen the stress of the holidays,” says Stephanie Nelson, the Coupon Mom. “Not only can you save time and energy, but with a little savvy shopping, you can also find some great deals.”
Whether you’re merely looking for stocking stuffers or planning to check off your entire gift list, Nelson offers the following advice for online shoppers:
• Have your online coupons ready and waiting. As you begin perusing your favorite retailers’ websites for the perfect gifts, sign up for their e-newsletters and begin receiving special holiday offerings in your inbox. Major brands often offer special deals such as if you spend $100 you receive an immediate 15 percent discount. That way, if you buy the majority of your gifts at one place, you save money for doing so. Be sure and save these offerings in a special folder or print them out so you have them on hand when you reach the online check-out line.
• Ensure gifts arrive before the holidays. “Most online retailers clearly explain their shipping times and policies, so you’ll know your deadline for ordering,” Nelson says. Enhance your chances for the gift to arrive on time by having items shipped directly to the recipients. Many sites offer gift packaging and the ability to include a note with your shipment.
• Make your dollars work for you – in the form of cash rewards that can be applied to student loans or a 529 college fund. Log on to Upromise.com and search more than 550 online retailers, including top sites such as eBay and Target.com, as well as retail giants like Apple, Best Buy, Red Envelope, and Pottery Barn. When you spend with participating Upromise retailers, the companies give back a portion (up to 25 percent) of your spending in college saving rewards. You can even link your Upromise account directly to your child’s 529, so that available funds conveniently go directly into their college savings account. What’s more, you can invite friends and family to join in by registering for their own Upromise account and designating their spending to benefit your child’s college fund.
• Don’t forget about price guarantee policies, which are detailed on each retailer’s site. If your item’s price goes down after your purchase, which is very likely after the holidays are over, you may be entitled to a refund. A site that makes it easy to get refunds is www.priceprotectr.com.
To learn more about Upromise, visit www.upromise.com.
Courtesy of ARA Content
Spruce up your holiday entertaining
Looking for a little glitz to spruce up your holiday entertaining? You may already have all the trimmings you need right in your own home. This is one of the first places Annie Williamson looks when developing new decorating ideas to capture the magic of the holidays.
As a designer for Replacements, Ltd., the world’s largest supplier of old and new china, crystal, silver and collectibles, it’s not only her job to deck the showroom, but also to help customers come up with their own unique twists to add seasonal glow.
“You don’t have to spend a lot of money or be extraordinarily creative to give your holiday table that extra sparkle,” says Williamson. “You can do so much on a limited budget by starting with china or other items you already have and using them in ways you never imagined.”
Here are a few decorating tips to find items in your own home and turn them into dazzling decorating pieces:
Think outside the box
Are your serving pieces in the china cabinet gathering dust? Those could be the start of a perfect centerpiece. “A great idea that’s also really easy is to fill a soup tureen or large serving bowl with fresh flowers or even colorful holiday ornaments to complement your napkins or china,” says Replacements’ Dubravka Vujinovic. “You could do something similar with your sugar bowl, or even fill water goblets or tumblers with flowers to use at each place setting.”
Find festive flourishes
You don’t need to have several sets of china to impress your guests. Replacements experts say small flourishes can easily give your table a whole new look.
• Mix old and new china patterns, or even combine pieces of your formal dinnerware with a more casual pattern. For instance, use a colorful earthenware dinner plate such as Homer Laughlin Fiesta as a charger beneath a more delicate china pattern.
• Add a burst of pizzazz by using colored glass plates as accent pieces. For autumn entertaining, you could even place a bright fall leaf on a dinner plate, then place a see-through colored glass plate on top to create a layered effect.
• Look outdoors. Use seasonal greenery, including holly, running cedar or magnolia leaves on the table to add color. For Thanksgiving, decorate with fresh fall leaves and walnuts.
• Fill silver bowls with water and float candles for evening entertaining.
• Add feathers to festive floral arrangements to create a unique look, or use gold and silver bells as accents.
• Instead of flowers, fill clear vases with cranberries, lemons or greenery in water.
• Decorate with ornaments at each place setting. They not only add sparkle, but guests can take home these keepsakes as a reminder of your special evening.
“Chandelier trees are another way to dazzle your guests,” says Williamson. “Take down the chandelier or light fixture over your dining room table then hang a holiday tree upside down from the ceiling and decorate it with lights and ornaments. Not only does this create more space on the table, it’s a great conversation starter.”
Want to learn more inside advice to dazzle your guests? You can find additional decorating tips at www.replacements.com.
Courtesy of ARA Content
New Year’s Resolutions
What not to do in the gym
By Judy Torel
We are rapidly approaching that time of year when hoards of Americans re-enter local fitness centers, trying to undo the damage being done this very month. Holiday parties, family gatherings and shopping for gifts all take their toll on our workout schedules and our waistlines. By January, many desperate people swarm into the gyms and try to make up for lost time by doing ineffective and unsafe fitness activities. This year, during New Year’s Resolution time, you can sidestep the fitness disasters commonly seen in the gym.
Elliptical machines are one of the great pieces of equipment added to the fitness industry in the past 20 years. They allow you to get an intense cardiovascular workout while avoiding the often painful trauma associated with running or other higher impact activities. Unfortunately, you may not be getting the workout you think you are.
Many people don’t even recognize that there is a resistance setting on the elliptical machines. These are the people who are going fast and furious, yet don’t seem to break a sweat, or if they do, it is light relative to the speed at which they are moving. The cadence range that equates to the most efficient workout is between 140 and 180 strides. If you are able to go faster than 180, you are most likely not working with enough resistance. The calorie count on the machine may tell you that you are burning hundreds of calories, but without enough resistance, the read out is wrong! You may appear to be working out like mad, but you will not get the fat-burning result you are after unless you raise the resistance and stay within the cadence of 140–180.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are people who crank the resistance high and then feel the leg muscles burning, so they assume this is a good workout. If you drop your cadence below 140 in order to keep a high resistance, then you will be getting a great leg workout, but you are not getting the cardio workout you think you are. Oh yes, your heart rate will be high, but that is because you are simulating sprinting up stairs, not because you are increasing your fat burning capacity, nor are you burning the calories you could be burning if you lower the resistance, increase the strides and then sustain that combination for 30 minutes or more.
Hand and body position on the elliptical will make or break your workout, not to mention injure your back! Under absolutely NO circumstances should you be leaning over at 90 degrees while holding the lower hand rails! This position indicates that you need to either lower the strides and increase the resistance, lower the resistance and increase the strides (see above) or get off the machine….you are done!
If you are holding the machine with your hands backwards, palms on top and fingers underneath with a twist in your wrist, not only are you lessening the fat burn by supporting too much of your body weight on the railings, you are also begging for a painful wrist injury like carpel tunnel syndrome. Don’t put your hands in this position on the machine.
The treadmill has proven itself over time in its ability to deliver a wonderful cardiovascular workout, whether by walking or running. However, every year in January, I see people doing improper techniques that reduce the effectiveness of the workout and can possibly lead to injury.
Never wear ankle weights when walking, and especially when running, on a treadmill. I don’t care how many servings of holiday cookies you gobbled down, you are not going to make up for it by strapping a weight on your ankle that causes you to change your gait and puts unsafe strain on your knees and hips. If you want to add weight to your treadmill workout then strap on a backpack with a couple of dumbbells in it. This won’t cause an improper gait like the ankle weights do.
Never hold onto the top of the board on the front of the treadmill! I watch people pitch the treadmill to tremendous incline heights of 10-15 percent grade while holding onto the top of the board and leaning so far back that it looks like they are going to snap their backs! This is done in the name of trying to intensify the workout, but when you hold onto the board like that, you are reducing your body weight by at least a quarter (it is now being placed on the board, much like holding yourself up on the handrails on the elliptical machine). Any added calorie burn or intensity you think you are getting by pitching it so high is negated by holding on, but the injury potential has dramatically increased. If you value the health of your back, I suggest you lower the incline and walk or jog without holding on. This will get the intensity you are looking for, while dramatically reducing the potential for injury.
It is not better to go very fast for 5-10 minutes, then get off. Although the high intensity makes you feel like you just burned thousands of calories, the reality is that even at a five-mile pace, 10 minutes will get you about 200 calories; but if you went at a pace that is 75 percent of your fastest capacity and did it for 40 minutes, you will get more calories, a better capacity to burn body fat in general, and a lower potential for injury. Not to mention, the workout will be more enjoyable because at 75 percent you may not be able to talk normally, but at least you can breathe!
Free weights/Machine workouts
There are more ineffective and inappropriate things being done in this area of the gym than this magazine has room to fit! Here are a few of the most common ineffective exercises and exercise concepts.
No matter how many crunches or abdominal movements you perform, you will not burn the fat off this area of your body through abdominal work. After the holidays, this is the single most frequently signaled-out area to spot reduce, but there is no such thing! Yes, performing abdominal work will help to tighten the muscles in this area, which will lead to a flattening, but this will not result in a decrease in the fat folds! Doing plank position holds (get into a push-up position and hold your hips even with the rest of your body) is the best ab exercise and a crunch exercise is also fine. Any more and you are wasting your time (pun intended).
Many women (and some men) fall victim to the bodybuilder’s method of body work, when what they are looking for is increased tone. Performing isolations for individual muscles in sets with rest periods is perfect for muscle enlargement. Performing exercises that involve “movement patterns” and engage multiple muscles done in a circuit-training-type approach (no rest, move right to the next movement pattern) is much more effective for body toning (tightening of already existing muscle).
It is exciting and fun to use the newer weight room toys like BOSUs (half balls), exercise balls and wobble boards for exercises like squats, presses, lunges, push ups, etc. Unfortunately, if you have not taken about four weeks to do these exercises on a stable surface first, you are at a high risk of injuring the tendons, ligaments and smaller deeper muscles that have to stabilize the movement pattern you are performing. Take the time to progressively advance from a stable surface to an unstable surface to get the best fitness results without hurting yourself.
No matter how much damage you did over the holidays, you cannot rush the fitness process. It is better to be safe, consistent and progressive in your approach to fitness. This is true in January and throughout the entire New Year!
Judy Torel is a therapist/personal trainer with a Master’s degree in psychology. She is certified through the American College of Sports Medicine as a fitness trainer and works out of Planet Fitness and Deb's Sweat Shop Extension. She can be reached at JTOREL2263@yahoo.com